United States Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy C. Shea on her visit to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Lebanon Field Office. (UNRWA photo)
United States Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy C. Shea visited on Tuesday the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Lebanon Field Office where she met with the Deputy Commissioner-General of the Agency, Leni Stenseth and the Director of UNRWA Affairs, Lebanon, Claudio Cordone.
Attending the meeting were the United Nations Acting Special Coordinator for Lebanon and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Najat Rochdi, the Chairperson of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, Dr. Hassan Mneimneh and the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour.
The visit follows the 7 April U.S. announcement to resumption of funding to UNRWA with a contribution of US$ 150 million.
Shea was briefed on the situation of Palestine refugees and the work of UNRWA under the acute circumstances in Lebanon, with a focus on the Agency’s response to COVID-19, including its support for the vaccination campaign.
"The message addressed to Palestine Refugees from the United States today is a message of reassurance and renewal of its historic commitment”, said Stenseth. “I hope this strong display of confidence in UNRWA will help us protect the safety, health and future of the millions of refugees we serve. The United States' contribution comes at a critical moment, as we continue to adapt to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis in Lebanon.
The resumption of U.S. support will help UNRWA continue and scale up its services to more than 180,000 Palestine refugees from Lebanon and more than 27,000 Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) present in the country. Services include education to more than 37,000 students at 65 UNRWA schools, health services at 27 health centres around the country, as well as cash assistance and support to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Lebanon. As conditions in Lebanon deteriorate further, Palestine refugees will continue to require additional efforts in terms of assistance.
“Like many in Lebanon, Palestine refugees are facing one of the worst socioeconomic crisis in a generation,” said Cordone. “UNRWA is expected to respond to the despair and match their expectations for more support. We need other countries to join the US in providing urgently needed support for Palestine refugees at this time of extreme hardship.”
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.
In response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, UNRWA has adapted to online education, adjusted the delivery of its primary health services to ensure safe continued access for beneficiaries, and supported national efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in Lebanon. The Agency also established isolation and quarantine centres.