UNRWA warns $101m. shortfall may delay school openings for Palestinian children

The agency provides help and protection to some 5 million registered Palestinian refugees.

August 7, 2015 00:48
2 minute read.
Pierre Krahenbuhl

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl sits with students at a UN-run school in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip in the Gaza Strip earlier this year. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency warned on Wednesday that its $101 million shortfall may delay the opening of 700 Middle Eastern schools this fall, in a report that it submitted to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.

“Unless funding for the full amount of the Agency’s General Fund shortfall of US$ 101 million is secured by the middle of August, the financial crisis may force the suspension of services relating to the agency’s education program,” UNRWA said.

“This would mean a delay in the school year for half a million students attending some 700 schools and 8 vocational training centers across the Middle East,” added in its report.

Austerity measures have allowed UNRWA to continue with live saving services such as health, sanitation, social services and poverty relief, the report said.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said he is concerned that his agency is cutting back at a time growing instability in the Middle East.

“Nothing is more important for these children in terms of their dignity and identity than the education they receive. We are simply not allowed to let them down,” Krähenbühl said.

In Jordan on Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered to protest the cuts in assistance.

The agency provides help and protection to some 5 million registered Palestinian refugees.

Most of Jordan’s seven million citizens are of Palestinian origin, they or their parents having been expelled or fled to Jordan in the fighting that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948.

Nearly a thousand protesters gathered in front of UNRWA’s headquarters in Amman to voice their protests.

Yahya Soud, a member of the Jordanian parliament and head of the Palestine parliamentary committee, said donor countries must show solidarity with the Palestinians.

“We had a meeting yesterday with the foreign minister and the deputy commissioner of UNRWA.

We informed him that we at the parliament and the Palestine parliamentary committee refuse this decision. The foreign minister said that he has approached 52 donating countries for funds. Such actions point to the apathy of the countries of the world towards the Palestinian cause,” he said.

UNRWA’s shortfall will affect almost half a million students in the region, 118,000 of whom are in Jordan, as well as 5,000 teachers in the country.

Ibrahim Azazbeh said students like him face a bleak future.

“This is a huge mistake. If they close down the schools, we will end up in the streets. We will start selling chewing gum at traffic lights,” he said.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Ban said UNRWA is “a pillar of stability” for Palestinian refugees and called for urgent donations to cover a critical shortfall in funding.

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