United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has urgent budget crisis

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UNITED NATIONS (PA) – United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees faces an “existential” budget crisis, calls for urgent funding of $ 120 million to maintain education, health care and support. other essential services, the agency chief said on Friday.

“We continue to struggle, to chase after money,” Philippe Lazzarini told a small group of journalists.

“The financial situation is a real existential threat to the organization, and we should not underestimate this as it could force the organization to cut back on services,” he added, and if that happens, ” we are in danger of collapsing very quickly “.

At stake is the agency’s ability to keep 550,000 children in school, provide healthcare to thousands of people and pay the salaries of its 28,000 employees in November and December, Lazzarini said.

The United Nations 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 or fled. were forced to leave their homes during the war surrounding the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Lazzarini added that it was not clear to agency officials “whether or not we will be able to maintain our activities in November and December”.

He stressed the importance of the United States returning as a major donor to UNRWA 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 to projects in the West Bank and Gaza. as well as to UNRWA.

But Lazzarini said the US funding was offset by a decrease in funding from other donors due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and by no information from potential donors in the Middle East.

He highlighted the decrease in the UK’s foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP, and the decline in Arab support to UNRWA from $ 200 million in 2018 to around $ 89 million in 2019 and $ 37 million in 2020.

He said that the uncertain funding for UNRWA has generated anxiety among Palestinian refugees that the “lifeline” provided by the agency may be weakened, and a feeling of being abandoned by the international community.

In an effort to reverse this trend, Lazzarini said Sweden and Jordan will co-host a conference in mid-November in Brussels whose main goal is to ensure more predictable multi-year funding for the agency.

He said UNRWA seeks $ 800 million a year for three years for its “core” activities – education, health care and social protection and safety nets.

UNRWA also has a separate emergency budget that provides humanitarian assistance to Gaza and Syria, he said. This year that budget was around $ 500 million, and he said it would likely be similar in 2022.

There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, but Lazzarini said UNRWA is only helping the 550,000 people in school and 2.8 million receiving health benefits.


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