UNRWA on verge of financial collapse


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 3rd June. UN refugees agency for Palestinians UNRWA on Friday said that the world body appealed for sustainable funding for its agency that supports Palestinian refugees, is on the brink of financial collapse.

UN expressed concerns that c hronic underfunding over the past decade, and resultant severe austerity measures, mean UNRWA is operating with a $75 million shortfall, putting its lifesaving programmes across the Middle East at risk.

Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told a pledging conference in New York “As I address you today, I do not have the funds to keep our schools, health centres and other services running as of September.”

UNRWA was established in 1949 as a temporary agency to provide aid to Palestinians after mass displacement from land that became Israel, making it one of the first UN humanitarian operations.

Over 6 million people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, depend on its services, which are entirely funded by voluntary contributions.

It said that a third of registered Palestine refugees live in camps.

Mr. Lazzararini said an additional $75 million is urgently needed to provide food for over a million people in Gaza.

Another $30 million is required to maintain cash and food assistance to 600,000 people in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged the international community to ensure the agency is fully funded.

Chef de Cabinet, Courtenay Rattray delivered SG remarks said despite its essential role, “we allow UNRWA to remain trapped in financial limbo.

Mr. Guterres was deeply concerned that some of the largest and most reliable donors have indicated that they might be reducing their support.

“Let’s be clear: UNRWA is on the verge of financial collapse. The consequences of further budget cuts would be catastrophic,” he warned.

Over  half a million young Palestinians are enrolled in UNRWA schools, two of whom made impassioned pleas at the pledging conference.

Ahmad Abu Daqqa attends a boys’ school in the Gaza Strip, where a blockade has been in place for nearly two decades.

“We, the students of the Gaza Strip, seek hope amidst despair,” he said, conveying a message from his peers.  “We only find it in education and learning, despite the numerous difficulties and obstacles we face, like living in a conflict and war zone.”

UNRWA students are proud of their education, heritage and culture, added Leen Sharqawi, 15, who attends a girls’ school in Jordan.  They also have big dreams.

“We are not just Palestine refugees,” she said. “We are children who dream of becoming global citizens and who want to help the world become a better place. Good education is what will allow us to do this.”

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