Deliberate political decisions are combining to create a humanitarian crisis for people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a senior United Nations official with the major relief agency meeting their needs told a UN seminar in Cairo today. Anders Fange, Director of Operations in the West Bank for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that in contrast to unpredictable natural disasters, the situation now looming was man-made, a result of policies aimed at strangling the economy.As many as 65,000 households which depended on salaries from the Palestinian Authority would need emergency assistance in the event that payroll cannot be met, he said, warning that the real consequences would be clear in the coming months.If Palestinian Authority schools ceased functioning, about 45 per cent of the students would come to UNRWA schools, he said, but the Agency was already faced with establishing priorities and making cuts. It was not just a case of no light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel itself was getting dark, he said.Mr. Fange emphasized that the Agency is not an alternative to negotiations leading to a peace process. The United Nations, he added, was neither politically or logistically able to substitute for Government departments.Rana Zakhout, an official with the UN Office of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said there had been a rapid and acute deterioration in the economic situation especially since the Hamas victory in the recent elections.The reduction in revenues was due to the moratorium on donor contributions because the new government did not subscribe to the principles of the Road Map, she said, referring to an outline peace plan which envisages two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side within secure and recognized borders.Representatives of 55 Governments, the Observer of Palestine, 4 international organizations, 16 United Nations agencies, 8 non-governmental organizations and 31 representatives of the media took part in the two-day UN Cairo Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People.

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