The Government of Switzerland has made a contribution of CHF 33.7 million (US$ 37.8 million) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The funds, including CHF 15.8 million (US$ 17.9 million) in 2014 and CHF 17.9 million (US$ 20.3 million) in 2015, will support the UNRWA General Fund, financing core services such as schools for half a million children, 138 primary health care facilities, and social safety net assistance for nearly 300,000 Palestine refugees.
At a signing ceremony on 28 February in Jerusalem, the Director of Swiss Cooperation Office West Bank and Gaza, Veronique Hulmann, said: “Switzerland's contribution is intended to support UNRWA activities, including the provision of quality education for half a million Palestinian refugee children and access to health care for almost 3 million beneficiaries per year. The Swiss contribution will also help UNRWA continue its work to support Palestinian refugees affected by the Syrian conflict and other crises in the region.”
The contribution is Switzerland's second multi-year agreement with UNRWA, an arrangement which gives the Agency some financial predictability and an ability to plan its huge operations.
UNRWA Director of External Relations and Communications Salvatore Lombardo said Switzerland has been a “solid supporter of UNRWA, whose financial support to the Agency's General Fund has consistently grown over recent years, from US$ 7.3 million in 2007 to US$ 16.6 million in 2013. This has allowed us to improve some our essential cores services, such as the basic education we are providing in our schools across the Middle East.”
In addition to supporting core UNRWA programmes, SDC works closely with the Agency to strengthen the quality of services provided to Palestine refugees, most recently through reforms taking place within the education programme, and to expand the scope of the Agency's partnerships through a Resource Mobilization Strategy.
Despite this generous contribution from Switzerland, the deficit in the UNRWA General Fund for 2014 stands at US$ 65 million.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 65 million.
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