UNRWA Funds Are Depleting and Palestinian Refugees Already Feel the Burden

[28-11-2021 11:45 AM]

Ammon News - Several weeks ago, the UK announced that it would halve the donations it used to give to the UNRWA, granting only $28 million, instead of the previous $56 million. A Gaza-based official says it will eventually harm the agency's ability to provide healthcare and education services to Palestinian refugees who rely on their assistance.

The management of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) breathed a sigh of relief on Friday, when Cyprus announced it would pour in some $100,000 to programmes and services designed to ease the suffering of the Palestinians.

Earlier this month, the international body was also given the first instalment of $600,000 from the total grant of $1.5 million by the United Arab Emirates' Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, aimed at safeguarding Palestinian children's right to education in Gaza.

But the management of the organisation in Gaza says these funds are only a drop in the ocean.

In 2020, UNRWA funding stood at $46.24 million, with countries such as the UK, Germany, Sweden, the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia providing the majority of the funds.

However, a year later, those donations significantly decreased, with several states announcing they would be cutting the cash injections.

Several weeks ago, the UK announced it would halve its donations to the Palestinian refugee agency, contributing $28 million only.

Talking to Sputnik, an Emirati source close to the highest echelons of decision makers confirmed his government was also investing less in the international body, and so was neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

A Gaza-based official within UNRWA, who wished to stay anonymous, says he and the organisation he represents were "saddened" when they heard the news about the funding cuts.

He also says that he felt at a loss as to why these cuts were made now, at a time when the Palestinians have been suffering from an acute economic crisis triggered by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Neither Britain, nor other donor states have managed to give us a clear explanation on why they have decided to take such a move", said the Gaza-based UNRWA official.

Last year, the Emirati source, who spoke to Sputnik on condition of anonymity, said the decision of some Arab states to reduce the funding was dictated by their frustration with the slow progress made on the Palestinian front. It also has to do with allegations of corruption within the organisation.

UNRWA officials have repeatedly stressed that accusations against the international body were unjustified. And the Gaza-based official said that he and other management members "provided multiple proofs and documents" that backed their stance.

Yet, this evidence was not enough for those international donors who decided to cut the funds, and the Gaza-based official says it had direct repercussions for the services they provide.

The UN body is operational in several locations of the Middle East, primarily in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees reside.

In all these locations, the agency provides the Palestinians with an array of services, including education, health care, social assistance, as well as infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance, and emergency response.

The official in Gaza is hopeful that the donor countries will backtrack from their earlier decision and will resume the much-needed funding.

"It is not the first time we have been facing with this challenge", said the official, referring to the crises of 2013 and 2018, when major funds were cut.

"But they were eventually resumed and we hope that this time around it will happen too", he summed up.


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