$1.4 billion needed to fund Palestine refugees, says UN

24th Mar 2020
$1.4 billion needed to fund Palestine refugees, says UN

Photo: Palestinian demonstrators gather outside the UNRWA building  in Gaza City, Gaza on September 17, 2019 demanding the extension of term of office of UNRWA. US, the body’s largest donor stopped its funding in 2018, cutting one-third of the agency’s budget

(Credit: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency)

Harun Nasrullah

A minimum of $1.4 billion is needed to fund the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) this year, the body’s interim Commissioner-General announced on January 31.

The US, the UNRWA’s largest donor stopped its funding in 2018, cutting nearly one-third of the agency’s budget. Christian Saunders said the funds would provide vital services throughout 2020, including life-saving humanitarian assistance for 5.6 million registered Palestine refugees across the Middle East.

He noted that the pledges of support UNRWA received at the General Assembly in December was “an overwhelming validation of the agency and our mandate” and stressed the importance of donors and partners matching those commitments, to allow the agency to provide refugees with “protection and those critical services considered a basic human right”.

In 2020, Palestine refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria will “continue to face daunting human development and protection challenges” precipitated by the occupation of the West Bank, the conflict in Syria, the political crisis in Lebanon and the growing needs in Jordan, said Saunders.

“We are stretched to our limits under our shrinking budgets and the growing needs of Palestine refugees who are impacted by the same volatility and unpredictability that people face in the Middle East every day”, he said.

The funds will be used for essential core services, including infrastructure, protection, social services and microfinance as well as to contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.

Moreover, it will help to provide education to over half a million children in some 700 schools across the region and enable 8.5 million patient visits in its health facilities, similar to last year.

Until there is a just and durable solution, “we are the only agency able to provide the type of essential services that Palestine refugees are entitled to”, he maintained.

Turning to US President Donald Trump’s administration’s ‘Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future’ aimed to resolve the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the top UNRWA official said that “a lot of Palestinians are in a state of shock at this point, in a state of disbelief”.

The US administration’s proposal aims to legalize Israeli illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while allowing Israel to annex around 30 per cent of the West Bank. Saunders said it was “extremely unsettling for the

Palestine refugees living under occupation, under blockade, and through conflict after conflict and crisis after crisis, hoping for justice and human rights, and with the constant fear that the international community will one day abandon them”.

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