Tuesday 30 November 2021 - 22:56

UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees Faces Funding Crisis

Story Code : 966303
UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees Faces Funding Crisis
UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini warned of potential cuts in vital services to millions of people amid a global pandemic.

The agency runs schools, clinics, and food distribution programs for millions of registered Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, mainly the descendants of Palestinians who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.

The 5.7 million refugees mostly live in camps that have been transformed into built-up but often impoverished residential areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, as well as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Lazzarini told reporters in Jordan that the resumption of US support for the agency this year which had been halted by the Trump administration was offset by a reduction in funding by other donors.

“If UNRWA health services are compromised in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination rollout will come to an end. Maternal and childcare will stop, half a million girls and boys not knowing if they can continue learning, and over two million of the poorest Palestinian refugees will not get cash and food assistance,” he said.

“The humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees keep increasing while funding to the agency has stagnated since 2013.”

Lazzarini said the agency raised enough donations at a recent conference in Brussels to cover up to 48% of its budget in 2022 and 2023. It also generated $60 million toward a $100 million shortfall until the end of the year to keep services running.

“I’m still not yet in a position to say when the November salaries will be paid,” he said.

The Palestinians say the refugees and their descendants have a “right of return” to their homes in what is now Israel, a position supported by host countries. Israel rejects that, noting that if such a right were fully implemented it would leave the country with a Palestinian majority.