|June 26,2018-- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that the efforts of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees are too vital to falter, in a bid to mobilize funding for the agency that faces a 250-million-U.S.-dollar gap.
Speaking at a pledging conference by an Ad Hoc Committee of the UN General Assembly, Guterres lauded the agency, or UNRWA for its work in education, health care, microfinance programs and food assistance, noting all these efforts have taken place in chronic economic hardship and conflict.
The UN chief stressed: "We cannot afford to allow UNRWA's vital efforts to falter," warning failure to provide desperately needed resources comes with a price. "More hardship for communities. More desperation for the region. More instability for our world."
Particularly, he recalled his encounter with UNRWA students in Gaza, commending their ability to speak with eloquence and maturity about their situation and aspirations as well as the need for peace.
"We must not abandon them," he said, urging efforts to ensure food and education for the Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA began this year with a funding shortfall of 146 million dollars but the gap was exacerbated by the U.S. government's reduction of 300 million dollars in its contribution.
Alarmed by the crisis, UNRWA managed to garner 200 million dollars from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, each contributing 50 million dollars, as well as Kuwait, Turkey, Japan etc., bringing the shortfall today at 246 million dollars.
Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of UNRWA, said the agency is literally running out of money for emergency work, where provision of food to some 1 million people in Gaza out of its 1.9 million population is at most critical and immediate risk.
The mental health support in school put in place after the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be also affected by the emergency funding reduction, he said.
Next in line are some 100,000 people in the West Bank involved in cash-for-work programs and other forms of support to communities, Krahenbuhl said.
UNRWA is a relief and human development aid body for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
It currently helps about 5.3 million people in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria as well as West Bank and Gaza. It offers education for more than half a million boys and girls and runs 140 clinics that see 3.5 million patient visits each year. The agency also conducts emergency operations for about 1.7 million refugees, particularly in Gaza, West Bank and Syria.