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Date posted: July 02, 2004
By UNICEF

Making her first visit to the occupied Palestinian territories, the British actress Vanessa Redgrave, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), today urged countries to increase their humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians and called on the Israeli Government to ease its restrictions on the movement of UN agencies.

At a press conference in Jerusalem, Ms. Redgrave said the UN agency responsible for helping Palestinian refugees has so far received only $62 million out of the $209 million it needs to provide such services as food aid, housing, employment assistance and trauma counselling for the rest of the year.

Ms. Redgrave also appealed to Israel to ease the security restrictions it has imposed recently in the Gaza Strip so that UN agencies can distribute food more quickly to Palestinians.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has delayed its latest round of food distribution in Gaza by three weeks because of the restrictions. Some 250 containers of food remain stuck at the port of Ashdod, with another 800 containers due to arrive by the end of August.

UNRWA officials say the number of Palestinians needing food aid has soared since September 2000, the start of the latest intifada. Currently the agency can only distribute about five to six containers of food a day in Gaza, well below the target of 20 containers.

On Tuesday Ms. Redgrave cancelled a planned visit to the Gaza Strip city of Rafah - where she had hoped to meet some of the more than 15,000 people left homeless by Israel's demolition of homes - because of the security restrictions.

During her six-day trip, which ends on Saturday, Ms. Redgrave has visited the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, toured refugee camps and health clinics, launched a UNICEF measles immunization scheme and participated with the British violinist and composer Stephen Bentley in a cultural programme for Palestinians.

Ms. Redgrave has also met locals to discuss life under occupation and the impact of Israel's construction of a wall in the Palestinian territories. A spokesman for UNRWA said she is due to meet Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat later today.

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Source: UNICEF
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