Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shourkry headed to Rome on Wednesday to co-chair an international conference to mobilise support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Egypt—as the current head of the UNRWA’s advisory commission—will co-chair the event alongside Jordan and Sweden’s foreign ministers to discuss the severe crisis hitting the agency, which supports more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and European Union Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini will attend.
The conference aims to tackle the huge fiscal deficit in the agency’s 2018 budget, which may halt its ability to serve Palestinian refugees, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid said.
“The issue needs re-evaluation of the status quo and more discussion of required methods to find radical solutions to the current crisis, including finding innovative funding sources and new partnership with donor countries,” a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry read.
Abou Zaid also stressed on the continuing Egyptian support to the agency’s work in dealing with the refugee issue, emphasising the necessity of maintaining the agency’s vital work as well as assuring the continuation of contributions received to end the crisis.
The UNRWA, which has a crucial role in humanitarian work to aid Palestinian refugees, is experiencing its most difficult financial crisis in its 70-year history. It provides basic education for more than half a million refugee children and primary healthcare for 3.5 million refugees, as well as cash, food, and other social programmes, including special ones for vulnerable women.