UN crisis might delay the year for half a million students

PNN/ Bethlehem/

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Tuesday warned that unless it receives at least $100 million by mid-August, it may be forced to delay the start of the school year for half a million students.

The UNRWA is currently experiencing the worst financial crisis in its sixty-five year history.

In a report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulated Tuesday, the UNRWA said with stringent austerity it should just be able to protect the most vulnerable refugees from extreme hardship and maintain public health and safety until the end of the year.

However, UNRWA said without additional fund it may be forced to close 700 schools and eight vocational training centers across the Middle East.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is necessary that UNRWA, which is assisting some 5 million Palestinian refugees, receive money to continue its education activities. He urged donors to provide $101 million.

About a week ago, PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi addressed the UNRWA crisis as a global responsibility.

“Such a crisis is the result of grave financial burdens exacerbated by Israel’s inhumane acts of aggression and siege on Gaza and the tragic circumstances that have befallen the Palestinian refugees in Syria,” Ashrawi said.

“UNRWA’s ability to provide basic services to the refugees is greatly threatened and the start of the school year is in grave jeopardy, affecting roughly half a million students in 700 schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” she added.

Ashrawi confirmed that the crisis requires the immediate attention of the international community, and called on the donor states and all members of the UN to shoulder their responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees and provide the necessary support and financial assistance to UNRWA.

UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 302 (IV) of December 8, 1949 in the aftermath of al-Nakba to deal with the major humanitarian disaster as a result of the uprooting and expulsion of the Palestinian people at the creation of the State of Israel. Launching its operations on May 1, 1950, UNRWA was the sole institution established to deal with Palestinian refugees only.

Sixty-five years later, it counts as a “lifeline” for millions of Palestinian refugees residing in Occupied Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, providing them with vital services, support and opportunities for work, growth and development.