Palestine: lack of resources is affecting the UN Relief and Works Agency

UNRWA building in Gaza UNRWA building in Gaza Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90.

23 June 2020

Essential aid is becoming scarce for the prime relief agency in Palestine, endangering the local population

The United Nations Works Relief Agency for Palestine in the Near East (UNRWA) is in a monetary predicament.  During a virtual meeting on June 23rd, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, stressed the urgency of having to come up with credible solutions to salvage the future of the UNRWA. During the reunion, the main target to overcome was the need to compensate for a $400 million funding gap.

The UNRWA was created in 1948 as a program to alleviate the consequences of the Arab-Isreali Conflict. Since then, it has assisted millions of Palestinian refugees over the past decades. Its efforts mainly operate from Gaza to the West Bank, but also reach areas of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. It is funded exclusively by member states, and is thus at the mercy of how much cash inflow those nations wish to contribute. According to Phillipe Lazzarini, the new UNRWA Chief, the Middle East is once more entering into a state of hostility and instability. Tensions are rising as Israel is planning to seize more areas of the West Bank, the Syrian conflict deteriorates, and as Lebanon is battered by an economic recession. Lazzarini stated that due to these crises, the UNRWA needs to be more present and fully funded as ever before. Unfortunately with the latest budget cuts and less funding, the agency is having to make due with fewer resources. He also mentioned that if the funding gap were to not be resolved, the agency would reach a financial collapse. Thousands of Palestinian refugees, as well as other vulnerable populations in the region rely on the UNRWA for support. Therefore, a total shutdown of the agency would strike an impending danger for all of them.

Lazzarini communicated to the meeting’s attendees that despite the recent budget cuts created over $500 million in savings for other sectors, the best way to save resources is possessing a fully functional agency, instead of operating at half capacity. Jordan is the number one nation in the region that continuously works with the UNRWA, welcoming a large percentage of Palestinean refugees. The nation’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, assured Lazzarini that Jordan would increase its support towards the agency on all fronts. Sweden also promised to slightly increase its monetary contribution, which last last year, amounted to $55 million reported by the Minister of International Development Cooperation. Despite these affirmations, the UNRWA’s future is seemingly hanging on by a thread and unfortunately, the ones truly affected by that are the region’s refugees.


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Author: Sergio Gomez

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