On eve of Syria pledging conference, UNRWA praises Kuwait, calls on donors to support Palestine refugees
26 January 2013, New York - On the eve of a pledging conference on humanitarian assistance for Syria to be hosted by the Emir of Kuwait and chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UNRWA's Commissioner General Filippo Grandi has praised the initiative and urged donors not to ignore the plight of some 525,000 Palestine refugees in Syria.
“This gesture by the Emir of Kuwait is that of a noble humanitarian, who showed his concern for Palestine refugees in 2009 with a generous donation to UNRWA’s emergency work in the Gaza Strip. “Sadly, some 525,000 Palestine refugees in Syria are now suffering just as badly”, he said. “They urgently need assistance.”
One of the most vulnerable communities in Syria, Palestine refugees have been seriously affected by events on the ground; most now rely on UNRWA as their sole means of support. Several UNRWA schools in the country are currently acting as a last place of refuge for 9,000 people, while tens of thousands languish under harsh conditions in neighbouring countries. Some 20,000 people have fled to the over-crowded refugee camps of Lebanon.
“While all civilians in Syria are bearing the brunt of the violence, the present situation of Palestinians in Syria is exceptional”, said Grandi. “They are becoming two-time refugees.”
Many Palestinians in Syria have been killed, he said, including five UNRWA staff members.
“Without funding, we will not even be able to continue helping the families sleeping rough on the floors of our schools”, said Grandi, adding that the Agency had less than five per cent of the funding needed to help the Palestinians of Syria.
“As donors make their pledges in Kuwait, I call on them to remember the Palestine refugees.”
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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 USD 68 million.
UNRWA has an extended network of assistance in Syria including 118 schools and 23 health centres. The Agency’s infrastructure in Syria was built up over more than 60 years in the country. Services are delivered through the Agency’s dedicated 3,800 in-country staff, often at great risk to their lives. UNRWA has the capacity to step up its efforts on the ground but only if adequate financial contributions are received from donors. The provision of critical services will be in jeopardy unless enhanced support is received.
In the past, Western donors have provided the vast majority of UNRWA's funding. However, only 55 per cent of its last Syria appeal was covered by donations. Increased funding is now necessary to provide essential relief to an impoverished and destitute population through cash payments, food, and non-food items and other emergency services. With the deteriorating situation, needs have become more acute: 400,000 Palestine refugees - 80 per cent of the total population - are in need of urgent support.
UNRWA’s Syria Response Plan for the first six months of 2013 amounts to USD91 million and lists the ways in which the Agency plans to assist Palestine refugees from Syria.
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