A United Nations report described the year 2020 as a year of setbacks for the Palestinians, their institutions and their economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented financial crisis.
The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process report said nearly half of the Palestinian population is now in need of humanitarian aid, at a time when Palestinian economic and social development is witnessing its worst years since 1994.
The Special Coordinator said, “The PA and the Palestinian people have been hit hard in 2020, with more than half the population in need, but I’m hopeful that donors will step up and provide much needed support.”
According to the report, the protracted humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unfortunate events of 2020 are expected to have negative impacts on Palestinians’ development paths for many years to come.
The report said during the first period of closures due to COVID-19 in the spring of last year, about 150,000 Palestinians lost their jobs which is expected to cause similar negative effects due to the currently imposed closures.
“In 2020, the Palestinian economy contracted around 10 to 12 percent—one of the largest annual contractions since the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994,” the report said.
2020 for Palestinians.. optimism despite the challenges
Despite the challenges and economic hardships, Wennesland said, “As of early February, vaccines have also begun arriving in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and, through the efforts of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the UN is supporting the Palestinian Government’s preparedness to receive and administer vaccines, including through the global COVAX-AMC facility.”
COVAX-AMC facility is concerned with the equitable availability of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
Moreover, large quantities of vaccines are expected to be allocated to cover priority groups in the occupied Palestinian territory in the next two months, but large funding gaps remain, according to the report.
“These are challenging times, but this is all the more reason for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to demonstrate flexibility and a pragmatic approach to solving urgent issues and ensuring the Palestinian people can bounce back from a tough year,” said Special Coordinator Wennesland.
Efforts to support humanitarian projects
The UN report called on the international community to support a wide range of humanitarian and development projects, as well as technical assistance, to help the Palestinian government implement its economic reform pledges.
In this context, the report reminded that the reintegration of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on multiple levels should be a priority.
Special Coordinator Wennesland said, “I call on the international community to work together to prevent any further backsliding for the Palestinian people and see progress in some important areas of common interest, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian economic relationship.”
The report indicated some of the initiatives the United Nations and its partners will continue to undertake, including vital support for Palestinian health services in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report pointed to supporting the Palestinian Authority’s social response plan in relation to COVID-19, through fundraising, technical assistance and implementation.
The report was issued by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) for the upcoming bi-annual virtual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on 23 February 2021.
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