Palestinian children at a UNRWA school in the occupied West Bank. Credit: AFP
Acting Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has called on donor parties to increase funds urgently needed by the Agency in order to maintain its services for Palestine refugees.
Speaking during a meeting of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, held in Jordan on 25-26 November, Acting Commissioner-General Christian Saunders sounded the alarm over the challenges UNRWA faces in providing services to millions of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
“UNRWA has just received overwhelming support at the Fourth Committee of United Nation’s General Assembly, but has also recently faced the most complex combination of challenges in its 70 years of existence,” said Saunders. “We are working hard to overcome these challenges with the help of our donors and host countries, but we urgently need additional funding if we are to ensure uninterrupted provision of essential services to the more than 5.5 million Palestine refugees we serve.”
The Acting Commissioner-General reiterated his urgent call for all partners to continue their support to UNRWA, and pleaded with members of the Advisory Commission who were still withholding pledged funds to disburse them immediately. He also asked all members to increase their contributions to meet the most pressing needs of Palestine refugees.
“UNRWA needs at least US$ 167 million between now and the end of the year to be able to continue its programs in education, health, relief, social services, camp improvement, micro-finance, protection and emergency assistance”, added Saunders.
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 program budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.