UNRWA faces an “existential” budget crisis

The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philip Lazarani, said on Friday that the United Nations Assistance Agency for Palestine Refugees is facing an "existential" budget crisis and is calling for urgent funding of $120 million to maintain On education, health care and other essential services are running.

"We are still struggling, and we are running after funding," Lazarani said in a press interview.

He added, "The financial situation poses a real existential threat to the organization, and we should not underestimate this because it may force the organization to reduce services," and if that happens, "we risk collapsing very quickly."

Lazzarini explained that the agency's ability to keep 550,000 Palestinian children in schools, provide health care for thousands, and pay the salaries of its 28,000 employees in November and December this year, is at risk.

UNRWA was established to provide education, health care, food and other services to more than 700,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were forced from their homes under the attacks of Jewish terrorist organizations, such as Irgun, Stern, Hagana, and others in the spring of 1948.

Lazzarini added that it was not clear to agency officials, "We do not know until this moment whether we are able to say that we will not be able to provide the mentioned amounts with flags or not to maintain our activities as usual in the months of November and next December," stressing the importance of the return of the United States as an entity A major donor to UNRWA this year after former President Donald Trump cut all funding to UNRWA in 2018.

It is noteworthy that the Biden administration announced last April that it would provide a total of $235 million for projects in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as for UNRWA.

However, Lazzarini warned that US funding was offset by reduced funding from other donors as a result of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lack of information from potential donors in the Middle East.

Elazarani indicated that the UK's foreign aid budget decreased from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of GDP, while Arab countries' support for UNRWA declined from $200 million in 2018 to about $89 million in 2019 and $37 million in 2020.

He said the uncertain funding of UNRWA had generated concern among Palestine refugees that the agency's "lifeline" could be weakened and a sense of abandonment by the international community.

In an effort to reverse this trend, Lazzarini said Sweden and Jordan will co-host a conference in mid-November in Brussels with the main goal of ensuring predictable multi-year funding for the agency.

He said UNRWA was seeking $800 million annually for three years for its "core" activities - education, health care, social protection and safety nets.

He said UNRWA also has a separate emergency budget that provides humanitarian aid to Gaza and Syria.

That budget this year was about $500 million, and he said it would likely be similar in 2022.

It is estimated that there are currently 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, but Lazzarini said UNRWA only helps 550,000 in schools and 2.8 million of those with health care.

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