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Israeli restrictions increase costs, prevent aid from getting to those who need it most

The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), where Diakonia is a member, has released a report showing that Israeli-imposed movement and access restrictions on humanitarian and development work in the occupied Palestinian territory are costing donors and their tax payers at least US $4.5 million a year.

2/8/2012 Publisher: Joakim Wohlfeil

Barriers impending aid workers must be removed

In the report the agencies call on the international community to urge Israel to remove the barriers impeding aid workers and related goods from moving freely to and between the communities they serve.

With one in four Palestinians living below the poverty line , the agencies say the restrictions further isolate communities from desperately needed aid- with vulnerable people paying the highest price.

Time and money is being wasted

“These restrictions are effectively robbing people in Gaza of a real chance for recovery. Nearly 80 per cent of the population in Gaza is dependant on humanitarian aid and our time and money is being wasted because we cannot consistently or efficiently get staff and necessary materials in and out of Gaza,” said Kathy Joubeh, Director of Programmes, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

While restrictions on access to Gaza have been well reported, access restrictions are also affecting critical aid programmes in some areas of the West Bank. The agencies said that restrictions on access to people living in the so-called Seam Zone (a closed military zone between the Green Line and the Wall) and for Bedouin and herding communities in the Jordan Valley, meant that they were just as vulnerable as those in Gaza. Of Bedouin and herding households in the Jordan Valley, 79 per cent reported not having enough food to eat.

“Right now, there are major obstacles to taking even simple measures that can improve the lives of children and their families in areas that have been cut off from health facilities, schools, and agricultural land that is needed to make a living. Delivering aid to areas based solely on where we are allowed entry is not acceptable. Aid should go where people need it the most,” said Salam Kanaan, Country Director for Save the Children.

One example: The village of Barta

For example, in the village of Barta, where 5,400 people are enclaved within the Seam Zone and surrounded by an electric fence, AIDA members were not even able to get a permit to go in for two hours to evaluate what the community might need.

“Barta is not an isolated case,” said Pauline Nunu, Country Coordinator for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). “There are too many examples where people are unable to reach the services they need and the humanitarian community has no power to help because of the access and movement restrictions on us.”

Requirements from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas also impediments

Bureaucratic registration requirements from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were additionally mentioned as impediments to effective aid delivery, requiring increasing time from AIDA members to manage.