The Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Ms. Leni Stenseth, called on the international community to support Palestine refugees during her participation in the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) of the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) on Tuesday 23 February.
“Donors fatigue is not an option,” said Ms. Stenseth after she described the despair and hopelessness that have become rife among Palestine refugees, particularly among young people. “Tensions in camps are brewing. Pressure on UNRWA to do more is increasing. Meanwhile, regional political developments, political attacks on the Agency and our financial difficulties feed a deep sense of insecurity and abandonment among the refugees.”
The AHLC meets twice a year to coordinate the delivery of international aid to Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. With the drastic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, UNRWA has become a lifeline to nearly 2.7 million people registered with UNRWA and eligible to receive its services in the West Bank and Gaza. This year, the Agency will support approximately 1.25 million food-insecure Palestine refugees in the oPt through emergency food aid or cash assistance. Cash-for-work opportunities will help mitigate substantial loss of livelihoods, specifically in Gaza, and emergency education support will benefit more than 330,000 UNRWA students across the oPt. In addition, UNRWA will ensure continued access to primary, secondary, and tertiary health care for Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), maintain COVID-19 prevention measures, respond to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and child protection concerns, and monitor occupation-related protection incidents, especially in the West Bank.
“UNRWA is key to the fight against the pandemic, regional stability, and efforts towards peace,” said the Deputy Commissioner-General. “Our services inject a sense of normality in an otherwise extremely unpredictable region. UNRWA is irreplaceable for the rights and wellbeing of Palestine refugees.”
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability, and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA program budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s program budget. UNRWA emergency programs and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.7 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.
UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance