Palestinian refugee children sit in front of their rented shelter in Beddawi refugee camp, Lebanon. (2019 UNRWA Photo by Maysoun Mustafa)
The European Union (EU) has supported the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by contributing EUR 4 million to the COVID-19 Flash Appeal of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
UNRWA said in a statement that the EU Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) is financing the project for a period of twelve months through the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP). This contribution will help stabilize the strained UNRWA health centres in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, so that they can better respond to the pandemic, with a specific emphasis on the most vulnerable in the population.
Hilde Hardeman, Head of Service/Director of FPI, noted: “A failure to address and properly manage an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip and West Bank would not only strain an already fragile health system but could also undermine stability. Our collaboration with UNRWA aims to reduce the pressure on the health system to help conflict-affected communities cope with the pandemic without fueling existing tensions.”
‘’The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis putting us all at risk, and particularly the most vulnerable communities such as Palestine refugees. In this context, we need to strengthen our joint efforts in order to overcome the challenges of this unprecedented crisis. This response comes on top of our annual contribution of EUR 82 million to UNRWA which we have frontloaded earlier this year. It demonstrates once again our solid and strong support to the Agency and its crucial work,” added the EU Representative in Jerusalem, Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff.
This tweleve-month action aims to support UNRWA, in particular the occupied Palestinian territory, to continue providing primary, and in the current situation potentially life-saving, healthcare services. It will allow the Agency to adapt and equip its health centres in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which cater to approximately 1.2 million individuals, for the COVID-19 emergency response.
The action will also support the operation of medical hotlines and the dissemination of COVID-19 information by text message (SMS). Funding will cover hospitalization costs for approximately 5,000 urgent non-COVID-19 cases to alleviate pressure on the public health system, thus allowing the system to concentrate its attention on COVID-19 cases.
“On behalf of the Agency, I thank the European Union for its generous support to UNRWA including this particular contribution which will help UNRWA enhance preparedness and responsiveness to COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem. We are deeply grateful to the EU for its steadfast support throughout the decades and the predictability of its funding for both core and emergency operations,” said Marc Lassouaoui, Chief of the UNRWA Donor Relations Division.
Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian, and protection needs of Palestine refugees, and promote stability in the Middle East. Over the course of four decades, this partnership has evolved, with the EU and its Member States becoming not only the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees, but a key strategic partner committed to supporting UNRWA in the absence of a just and durable solution to the plight of Palestine refugees.