UN’s Palestine refugee fund falls short

5 May 16

An $81m funding shortfall for the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency is playing with the fate of millions in need across the Middle East, secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has warned.

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Palestinians protesting Israeli occuptation

Palestinians protesting Israeli occuptation

 

The UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been plagued by funding crises, leaving support for 5.2 million Palestinian refugees in the region hanging in the balance.

“The budget uncertainties are a costly distraction,” Ban said, urging donors to make up the deficit.

“They play with the fate of people who are already living on the edge. They add a needless extra layer of suffering and anguish.”

As well caring for Palestine refugees caught up in emergencies, such as the Syrian civil war, UNWRA works to provide long-term support to people throughout the Middle East.

This includes health services, education, social services, small loans and camp improvement, which are all to be provided until a “just and durable solution” to the refugee issue is found.

However, UNRWA has found it increasingly difficult to secure the necessary funding as the number of Palestinian refugees continues to grow.

Last year, the agency faced the biggest funding shortage in its 65 years of operations – $101m – which threatened to delay the start of the school year for nearly half a million children in 700 UNRWA-run schools.

The agency managed to open schools on time after a last-minute scramble for cash turned up $80m in contributions.

This year, the shortfall threatens to delay the education of 500,000 children again.

Ban stressed the need to put UNRWA on a “sustainable footing”. He said this meant not just good management, but also Palestine refugees never having to question whether UNRWA schools would be open, whether crucial medical services would be available, or whether there would be food on the table.

“Let us never forget the human consequences if we let Palestine refugees down: more young people driven into despair; an increased risk of extremism; more poverty, loss of hope and dignity and a Middle East region even more riven by conflict.”

Overall, UNRWA appealed for $817m in January for its operations over 2016. The agencies largest donors last year were the US ($380m), the European Commission ($136m), the UK ($99m) and Saudi Arabia ($96m).

The UN’s budget as a whole, however, is faring better, according to a top management official.

Yukio Takasu, under-secretary general for management, reported yesterday that the organisations financial situation is “sound and positive”.

However he noted some areas that were a cause for concern. The regular budget was in deficit by $217m, and Takasu suggested reserves might not be sufficient to fill the gap left when budgets get even tighter at the end of the year.

“I think it’s prudent to review the adequacy of reserves,” he said. “The regular budget is always tight in the last quarter and ... the question is whether the size of the reserve is good enough.”

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