The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), needs a total of $1.2bn to fund the agency’s vital core services and life-saving humanitarian aid for 5.4 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.
Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, Pierre Krähenbühl said that the aforementioned amount of funds are required to keep UNRWA operations at the same level as in 2018.
The presentation of the agency’s 2019 priorities and financial requirements comes in the wake of a remarkable global mobilisation to overcome an unprecedented shortfall and existential crisis following the decision by the agency’s largest donor to cut $300m of its contribution last year.
The UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.
The UNRWA encourages all member states to work collectively in order to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the agency’s programme budget. The UNRWA’s emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
“As we faced the most severe financial challenge in our proud history, it was both humbling and inspiring to have witnessed the extent and generosity of the response from host and donor governments, from within the United Nations and NGO partners, from civil society and individuals. I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude for this exemplary commitment and solidarity,” Krähenbühl said.
In 2019, Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, will continue to face a range of daunting human development and protection challenges.
The effects of violence, incursions, lack of freedom of movement, and employment opportunities, as well as increasing levels of food insecurity, and psychological trauma are alarming and expanding.
In Syria, the ongoing conflict has many acute consequences for Palestinianrefugees in the country and beyond, from displacement to loss of livelihoods, as well as the daily struggle to survive the immense adversity imposed by eight years of war.
“One of the greatest concerns for Palestinian refugees is the current near complete absence of horizon, both political and personal. It is essential to preserve the key services carried out by courageous UNRWA staff in some of the most difficult and polarised regions of the Middle East.” Krähenbühl said.
Krähenbühl called on the UNRWA partners to sustain the generous funding levels achieved individually and collectively in 2018. “At stake are the dignity and rights of Palestinian refugees – in particular the right to education for 535,000 girls and boys – as well as regional stability and the defence of robust multilateralism,” said the Commissioner-General.
The UNRWA, for its part, remains fully committed to maintaining its reform-mindedness and financial discipline, he noted
Some $750m will be required to continue the agency’s core services, which encompass education, health, relief, and social services, and contribute toward the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.
Furthermore, $138m will be required to provide emergency humanitarian aid to the oPt (Gaza and West Bank, including East Jerusalem) and $277m will be required in support of the Syrian Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal (in Syria and for Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon and Jordan).
Additional funding is required for priority projects, particularly the need for construction projects resulting from conflict (Nahr el-Bared in Lebanon, and Gaza), as well as initiatives designed to complete programme reforms or strengthen programme delivery.
Krähenbühl also addressed a message to Palestinian refugees and UNRWA staff, mentioning, “During the extreme crisis we faced last year, we promised to show maximum resolve and creativity. We lived up to that commitment and are proud of this. At the same time, we remember that the successful campaign to overcome the shortfall came with a cost. Some services were impacted, and some staff members lost their jobs, which we deeply regret.”
The UNRWA staff will continue to demonstrate absolute determination in mobilising political and financial support for the agency, he said, noting, “We will also remain very honest about how difficult it will be and the fact that the UNRWA will continue to face major challenges. We must remain united and show the cohesion that was such an important part of our success last year.”
The UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the general assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestinian refugees registered with the UNRWA across its five fields of operation.
Its mission is to help Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. The UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief, social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection, and microfinance.