UN agency for Palestinians needs $50-80m to ‘keep running’

 The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) need a capital investment of $200m over the next three years to help recover depleted assets.

On Monday, the director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned that the agency's "assets have become outmoded" and that it needed between $50 million and $80 million to keep services functioning until the end of the year.

From Amman, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said the organization has endured "years of austerity" and requires a capital investment of $200m over the next three years to help recover depleted assets.

For more than 700,000 Palestinians who were forcibly evacuated from their homes by Zionist forces in 1948, the year the state of Israel was created, UNRWA was established to offer education, healthcare, food, and other services.

The oldest United Nations organization helps Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria with things like education and healthcare.

There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, but Lazzarini said UNRWA only helps the 550,000 in school and 2.8 million who have health benefits.

Lazzarini, speaking at a press conference in Amman, Jordan's capital, said that the agency's services are especially important because of the country's high poverty rates.

"Our judgment over the last several months is that we have poverty rates up to 80%, to 90%, which implies that the whole population relies on the lifeline UNRWA can offer for them," he continued, referring to areas such as Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.

According to Lazzarini's comments to the press, the United States has contributed more than $340 million to the agency this year, making it the country's largest single donor.

He said that the violence in Ukraine had cut into the cash the UN organization receives.

An Al Jazeera journalist, Youmna El Sayed, reported on Monday that the Refugee Popular Committee was demonstrating in front of the UNRWA offices in Gaza City. The demonstrators believed that the world community had ignored their misery.

The demonstrators want the United Nations to provide long-term support for UNRWA so that the agency may function independently of individual donor countries and specific financial programs. The Al Jazeera journalist reported that the protesters demanded an increase in services like food vouchers and humanitarian help in addition to the restoration of work prospects, which had sharply dropped off after 2007.

El Sayed further stated that until UN resolution 194 is implemented, which deals with the right of refugees to return to their country in present-day Israel, there are 1.3 million refugees in Gaza living below the poverty line who demand immediate help and expanded employment prospects.

Former UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness recently told Al Jazeera that a committee of professionals and refugees had developed plans to address the agency's problems.

Gunness stated that the organization is advocating for "durable solutions," one of which is the local integration of the refugees into the communities where they already exist while preserving their full social, economic, and political rights.

Refugee resettlement in a third nation was also crucial to the long-term solution.

Gunness argued that refugees should be permitted to go to and settle in other nations.

Thirdly, allowing refugees the option to return home was proposed as a long-term fix.

Israel's persistent denial of Palestinians' right of return in violation of international law and of their obligations "has prolonged the refugee crisis," as Gunness put it.

Palestinians must be treated with respect as unique people with their own identities and futures.

"Until the 6 million refugees are rescued from exile, disposition, and statelessness, violence will persist in the Middle East."


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