On 26 November 2013, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) held a ceremony launching a group of reconstruction projects funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through its Saudi Fund for Development, at a total value of US$ 14 million.
The ceremony was held at the UNRWA training centre in Ein el-Sultan camp, near Jericho. Felipe Sanchez, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, greeted media and attendees including Peter Ford, the Special Representative of the UNRWA Commissioner-General; Munir Manneh, UNRWA external relations officer; and other senior officials. Members of the local community also attended the event.
Mr. Ford, speaking on behalf of Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi, expressed his appreciation for the generous donation. He said: “This project represents a new development in the long-standing cooperation between Saudi Arabia and UNRWA on projects in the West Bank. It is further proof of the depth and the wide-ranging nature of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which was the third-largest UNRWA donor in 2013.”
This programme, governed by an agreement signed on 26 May 2013, comprises a variety of projects, including the reconstruction of 180 housing units and the rehabilitation of 750 homes in Palestine refugee camps across the West Bank. This will greatly improve the living conditions of over 930 Palestine refugee families currently in dilapidated homes. Funds have also been allocated for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of three schools, as well as the Hebron Health Centre. The Saudi Fund-supported projects will conclude in November 2014, 18 months after the signing of the agreement.
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$ 36 million.
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