700 refugee schools to be hit by UNRWA crisis

PNN/Bethlehem/

The financial situation of the UNRWA may lead to the closing of 700 refugee schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is currently facing a severe funding crisis, and the Guardian reported that they will run out of money this September due to a $100 million deficit in funding. It is the worst financial crisis the organisation has faced in its 65 years of aid work in the region. Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General of the UNRWA, said in an interview with the newspaper that:

“Palestinian refugees are facing their most severe situation since 1948. They have had 50 years of occupation, nine years of a blockade in Gaza and now five years of conflict in Syria. When you look at all of that, how much more can they absorb?”

If the UNRWA is unable to obtain financial aid from the international community, future cuts will lead to the continued closure of 700 schools for refugee children, leaving them at risk of radicalisation. The decision regarding the opening of the schools will be made in August.

Director of the UNRWA, Robert Turner, told the French newspaper Le Monde that the situation in the Gaza strip is particularly worrying, since:

“The situation has been deteriorating because of the continuous Israeli siege and the closure of the Rafah crossing with Egypt… The situation in Gaza deteriorated after last summer’s offensive as the number of needy people is increasing.”

The Palestinian Authority has estimated that the cost of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip will cost up to $7.8 billion, however the UNRWA Gaza reconstruction appeal had to temporarily suspend the program due to a 585 million dollar shortfall, reported IPS News Agency yesterday. Palestinian refugees displaced in the Syrian conflict are heavily impacted by the lack of UNRWA funding as well, living on as little as 100 dollars monthly in Lebanon.

In a desperate appeal to the international community, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told ISP:

“So, unless someone steps in to alleviate the crisis, even tougher decisions may need to be made in the next few weeks and it is innocent refugees who will again suffer.”