Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Donors pledge $160 million, Palestinian refugees need more

The donors had pledged about $160 million to the United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees, but it still needs to support education for more than half a million children and primary health care for some two million people and most people. More than $100 million is needed to provide emergency cash assistance to poor refugees. The head of the agency said on Friday.

Briefing reporters on the outcome of Thursday’s donor conference, Philippe Lazzarini said converting the pledges into cash would enable the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, to run its operations until September. But “I don’t know whether we will get the necessary cash to allow us to pay salaries after the month of September,” he said.

“We are in an early warning mode,” Lazzarini said.

“Right now, I am drawing attention that we are in a danger zone, and we have to avoid a situation where UNRWA is pushed to cross the tipping point, because if we cross the tipping point whose That means 28,000 teachers, health workers, nurses, doctors, engineers cannot be paid.”

UNRWA was established to provide education, health care, food and other services to 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding the establishment of Israel in 1948.

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There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, who live mostly in camps that have turned into built but often poor residential areas along the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza as well as Jordan. , Syria and Lebanon.

But UNRWA only helps more than 500,000 in school and about two million people with health benefits.

Lazzarini said the reduction of more than $100 million in funding for 2022 is almost similar to UNRWA’s reduction for a decade, but when income has stagnated the costs have increased.

In previous years, UNRWA has been able to absorb shortfalls through austerity and cost control measures, but today this is not possible as there is little left to cut without cutting services.

“Today, we have a few classes with 50 children,” said the UNRWA’s commissioner-general. “There is double shift in our schools. We have doctors who can’t spend more than three minutes in a medical consultation. So if we go beyond that, it will force the agency to cut services.”

Lazzarini said that UNRWA’s problem is that “we are expected to provide government-like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region, but we are funded like an NGO because we rely entirely on voluntary contributions.” are dependent.”

The funding of the agency’s services has been put at risk today because of “abolition of prioritization, or perhaps increased apathy, or domestic politics,” he said.

Lazzerini said the resolution of UNRWA’s chronic financial problem required “political will” to garner support for the agency’s work on behalf of Palestinian refugees.

He said UNRWA has a very strong donor base in Europe and last year the Biden administration resumed funding that the Trump administration had cut, but added that the overall contribution from the Arab world was less than 3 percent of the agency’s income. has decreased.

Donors have also faced financial difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is now a greater effort to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, he said.

“We’ll know better at the end of the year how much this will affect the agency,” Lazzarini said.

Some donors have already warned UNRWA that “we may not have a traditional top-up at the end of the year, which would be dramatic for the agency”, he said.

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Nation World News Desk
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