UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini and Astrid Wein, the Austrian Representative in Ramallah, sign a EUR 1 million contribution agreement in support of Palestine refugees. (2022 UNRWA Photo by Lucrezia Vittori)
The Government of Austria, through the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austria Development Cooperation, signed on Tuesday an agreement for a total of EUR 1 million for the 2022 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Emergency Appeal.
UNRWA said in a statement that this unearmarked funding will directly contribute to mitigating the impact of the current humanitarian crisis on Palestine refugees in Gaza. The humanitarian situation in Gaza significantly worsened in 2021. The ongoing blockade, with its restrictions on the movement of people and goods, continues to undermine Gaza’s socio-economic viability. These impacts have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the destruction caused by the May 2021 hostilities.
Due to extremely high unemployment, estimated at 50.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, and conflict-related violence, Palestine refugees in Gaza experience deteriorating socio-economic conditions and what can only be described as a mental health crisis.
This contribution will enable UNRWA to deliver essential humanitarian services to Palestine refugees in Gaza, including emergency food assistance, as well as critical mental health and psychosocial support services.
At the signing ceremony held today in East Jerusalem, Astrid Wein, Austrian Representative in Ramallah, acknowledged the Agency’s role in mitigating the impact of the current humanitarian crisis on refugees in Gaza. “Austria reaffirms its full and continued support to UNRWA; this contribution to the 2022 Emergency Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory will enable UNRWA to continue to provide food assistance to 1.2 million Palestine refugees in West Bank and Gaza, and equally important to provide and mainstream mental health and psychosocial support within its services.
UNRWA said these interventions are urgently needed to strengthen the resilience of Palestine refugees, especially after the May 2021 war on Gaza and hostilities in the West bank, which have caused not only humanitarian crises, but also socio-economic de-development and trauma for Palestinian refugees.
Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General, thanked the Government of Austria for its support to the Agency and affirmed: “I commend Austria for this generous contribution and for its increasing support to UNRWA. I am pleased to see the Agency’s relationship with Austria expand in size and scope and hope for an even stronger partnership in the coming years.”
In 2021, the Government of Austria contributed an unprecedented EUR 6.2 million to UNRWA, of which EUR 4.2 million in support of the Agency’s core primary health care services in the oPt and EUR 2 million to the Syrian Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal. This represents a four-fold increase in the level of contribution compared to 2018.