The UN agency helping Palestinian refugees faces an “existential” budget crisis and is calling for urgent funding of $120 million to keep essential education, health care and other services running, the agency’s chief said Friday.
“We continue to struggle, run after money,” Philippe Lazzarini told a small group of reporters.
“The financial situation is a real existential threat to the organization, and we should not underestimate this, because it could force the organization to reduce services,” he added, and if that happens, “we risk very much.” to collapse quickly.”
At stake is the agency’s ability to keep 550,000 children in school, provide healthcare for thousands and pay the salaries of its 28,000 staffers in November and December, Lazzarini explained.
The UN Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, was established to provide education, health care, food and other services to the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes during the 1948 Israeli settlement war.
Lazzarini added that it was not clear to the agency officials: “if yes or no, we can continue our activities in November and December.”
He stressed the importance of the US returning as a major donor to UNRWA this year after former President Donald Trump cut all funding in 2018. as well as to UNRWA.
But Lazzarini said US funding was offset by reduced funding from other donors due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and no information from potential donors in the Middle East.
He pointed to the decline in the UK’s foreign aid budget from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of GDP, and the decline in Arab aid to UNRWA from $200 million in 2018 to about $89 million in 2019 and 37. million dollars in 2020.
He said UNRWA’s uncertain funding has sparked fears among Palestinian refugees that the “lifeline” provided by the agency could be weakened, and a sense of being abandoned by the international community.
In an effort to reverse this trend, Lazzarini said Sweden and Jordan will jointly host a conference in Brussels in mid-November, the main aim of which is to ensure more predictable multi-year funding for the agency.
He said UNRWA is seeking $800 million a year over three years for its “core activities” of education, health care and social protection and safety nets.
UNRWA also has a separate emergency budget for humanitarian aid to Gaza and Syria, he said. This year, that budget was about $500 million, and he said it will likely be similar in 2022.
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.