Palestinian children hold bread patties during a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations' offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. Credit: AFP
Acting Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Christian Saunders, said his Agency will spare no effort to help Palestinian refugee communities overcome the multilayered and complex challenges they continue to face.
In a statement issued on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of UNRWA, Saunders said: “I wish to thank all of you - our UNRWA staff - for your service on behalf of Palestinian refugees. Your steadfast commitment to reducing the suffering and to helping meet the needs of the Palestine refugees, in often perilous conditions, fills me with awe and I am extremely proud to be able to work alongside you in this noble endeavor.”
“To have been appointed Acting Commissioner-General of UNRWA to lead the agency through this very difficult period is a great privilege”, he stated. “The challenges being faced by the Agency and the refugee communities we serve are many and often complex, however it is my firm belief that we can be successful in overcoming the current financial crisis and operational challenges, by working together, in close cooperation with all our partners, to find solutions and create new opportunities.”
He referred to the November 13 overwhelming vote by the Member States of the United Nations to renew UNRWA’s mandate for another three years, until 30 June 2023, as an instance of the UN General Assembly’s strong support for UNRWA and Palestine refugees.
“It is clear that today our mandate is as relevant and important as it was the day UNRWA was established 70 years ago and that we are not alone”, said the UN official. “Since 1948 many countries and other partners have supported us. In particular, I take this opportunity to express my profound appreciation to the host countries and to all of our donors and other partners, old and new, for the very generous support you provide to UNRWA and Palestine refugees.”
Saunders vowed that the Agency will continue to work on providing Palestine refugees with the highest quality services and support so as to enable them to live productive and healthy lives and to reach their full potential.
He said that the agency will also work to give refugee youth the skills and opportunities to compete in a modern job market and that its staff will do whatever it takes to protect the vulnerable and ensure that no one is left behind.
He added that UNRWA will sustain its core services for Palestine refugees and help them build the future that they want and deserve pending a just and durable solution to their plight.
“I look forward to a rich and fruitful engagement and to working with each one of you to enhance our services in the implementation of our critical mandate”, said the UN official.
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. As a result, the UNRWA program budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.