Christian Clages, Head of Mission, German Representative Office in the Palestinian territories and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini at the contribution signing ceremony. © 2020 UNRWA Photo by Marwan Baghdadi
On 19 June, the Government of Germany disbursed a contribution of EUR 20 million to the updated COVID-19 Flash Appeal released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
This contribution from Germany will help the Agency ensure that Palestine refugees are able to meet their basic needs, and mitigate a further deterioration in their humanitarian and socio-economic conditions, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable.
The disbursement of the contribution was announced at the extraordinary ministerial pledging conference “A Strong UNRWA in a Challenging World – Mobilizing Collective Action” on 23 June, a pivotal moment for UNRWA and its partners to mobilize support to meet the Agency’s resource requirements for 2020 and beyond.
To help UNRWA prevent the further spread of the virus, the Government of Germany has also provided a contribution of EUR 556 thousand through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), to support Palestine refugees in quarantine facilities and households under home quarantine across the West Bank.
As part of this project, vulnerable families will receive 2,500 food baskets and hygiene kits to ensure they have the means to isolate themselves at home. The packages include awareness raising material on personal mental health while staying in quarantine. The distribution started at the beginning of June.
“The coronavirus knows no borders. It affects the people who are particularly vulnerable as they live in war zones, refugee camps or countries whose health systems are close to collapse because of the pandemic. We need to show solidarity here in order to relieve the suffering. Equally: only by working together will we permanently defeat the pandemic. Otherwise there will constantly be a danger of new waves of infection,” Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas underlined.
In light of the Agency’s current financial crisis, the Government of Germany has also increased its humanitarian assistance to UNRWA Emergency Appeals in the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria. Specifically, in 2020 Germany will contribute EUR 31 million towards emergency food assistance to the Gaza Strip as well as EUR 22 million for emergency cash assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria.
“UNRWA was able to largely contain an outspread of the virus because of the swiftness with which it adapted the way it works: from telemedicine to distance learning and other measures to prevent crowds but continue services,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. “This generous contribution will cover some of the most pressing needs of a population particularly harshly hit by the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. It is yet another sign of Germany’s strong commitment to the wellbeing and human rights of Palestine refugees.”
The Government of Germany was the Agency’s largest donor in 2019 contributing more than EUR 152 million towards UNRWA operations.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.