A man with an UNRWA flag in the southern Gaza Strip..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UNRWA raised $122 million in donor funds for Palestinians, thereby reducing its budgetary shortfall to only $64m. for this year.
The pledges, which included $40 million from the European Union, were made at a meeting in New York on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“The announcement of an additional $122 million is a very significant step in the direction of overcoming UNRWA’s greatest and gravest financial crisis ever,” Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said.
He spoke after a ministerial meeting, chaired by Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman H. Safadi. In the meeting, the diplomats discussed the funding crisis created by the United States’ decision in late August
to cut it’s funding to UNRWA, including $300 million the organization had expected to receive this year.
That cut, plus a deficit from the previous year, left the organization with a shortfall of over $400m.
The organization provides essential services for more than 5.3 million refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, east Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. UNRWA had been particularly concerned that it would not have enough money to fund its schools, which service half a million children.
“We’ve dealt with part of the challenge today, which is trying to move closer to addressing the budget deficit that exists,” Safadi said. “I think the challenge is to sustain this effort and I think part of what we discussed today is a way in which we could have a long-term financial planning so [...] every year in August, Palestinian kids will [not] be wondering whether they’ll have a school to go to or not.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who has been very vocal in her support of UNRWA, said the organization was “essential for the perspective of a two-state solution. Supporting the agency means supporting peace and security in the Middle East. And this is in our strategic interest.”
Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “Our additional humanitarian assistance will help UNRWA respond to health needs, which have increased significantly over the past six months in Gaza.
“This will strengthen the health care system and help UNRWA-run primary health care centers in Gaza meet increased demands. We remain committed to assisting the most vulnerable people in Gaza and to strengthening the resilience of the most affected communities.”
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