Wednesday, October 27, 2021

UN agency for Palestinian refugees has an urgent budget crisis

United Nations (WNN) — The United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees is facing an “existential” budget crisis and is appealing for $120 million in urgent funding to keep essential education, health care and other services running. The agency’s head said on Friday.

“We keep fighting, running after cash,” Philippe Lazzarini told a small group of reporters.

“The financial situation is a real existential threat to the organization, and we should not underestimate it because it may force the organization to reduce services,” he said, and if this happens “we risk a very early collapse.” pick up.”

Lazzarini explained that the agency has the capacity to keep 550,000 children in school, provide health care to thousands, and pay the salaries of its 28,000 employees in November and December.

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

Lazzarini said it was unclear to agency officials “if yes or no we will be able to continue our activities in November and December.”

He stressed the importance of returning UNRWA as a major donor this year after former President Donald Trump halted all funding in 2018. The Biden administration announced in April that it would provide a total of $235 million for projects in the West Bank and Gaza. As well as for UNRWA.

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But Lazzarini said US funding has been offset by less funding from other donors as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and no information from potential donors in the Middle East.

He pointed to a reduction in the United Kingdom’s own foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP, and a drop in Arab support to UNRWA from $200 million in 2018 to about $89 million in 2019 and $37 million in 2020. did.

He said UNRWA’s uncertain funding has raised concerns among Palestinian refugees that the “lifeline” provided by the agency could be weakened, and there could be a feeling of being abandoned by the international community.

In an effort to reverse the trend, Lazzerini said Sweden and Jordan will co-host a conference in Brussels in mid-November, primarily aimed at ensuring more anticipated multi-year funding for the agency.

He said UNRWA is seeking $800 million per year for three years for its “core” activities – education, health care, and social safety and security nets.

He added that UNRWA also has a separate emergency budget that provides humanitarian aid to Gaza and Syria. That budget this year was about $500 million, and he said it would probably be the same in 2022.

There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, but Lazzerini said UNRWA only helps 550,000 in school and 2.8 million with health benefits.

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