palestinian boy poor 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The European Union said Wednesday it was giving $816 million in aid to benefit 160,000 Palestinian families this year, expanding the funding program that bypasses the Hamas-led government.
European experts agreed to boost the international aid program overseen by the World Bank to cover 60,000 more families in the Palestinian territories from the 100,000 families now receiving help under the program, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said.
The fund offers a $339 monthly allowance to poorer Palestinian families, pensioners and civic workers, whose paychecks disappeared when international donors halted direct aid payments after the militant Hamas group won Palestinian elections.
"We are talking about quite a large amount of money," Udwin said. "Despite direct aid to the Palestinian Authority having been suspended .... the EU's contribution remains high, higher than in an average year."
The experts also backed a decision by top international donors to extend the funding program until the end of the year, she said.
The European Commission has given $414 million this year to the program, above its average yearly aid of $314 million for the Palestinians. The rest of the program funds were coming from some of the 25 EU member countries, the United States and others.
The Commission said last month it had started to pay social allowances to 40,000 Palestinian families, coming on top of spending for 11,500 health workers who are no longer paid and pensioners.
Regular welfare payments and aid to the Palestinian Authority stopped in February, as international donors demanded the Hamas-led government renounce violence and recognize Israel.
The special funding program was set up in June to direct funds to three key areas - support for health services, utilities and social allowances - while bypassing the Hamas-led government's coffers.
The Quartet group of Mideast peacemakers - the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations - agreed last month to expand the scope of the program.
The program has delivered more than 2 million liters (500,000 gallons) of fuel to supply power for hospitals and water in the Gaza Strip.