Today, at a ceremony at UNRWA’s food distribution centre in Jabalia Camp, Gaza, Mr. Marcus Cornaro, Director for Europe, Southern Mediterranean, Middle-East and Neighbourhood Policy at the European Commission's EuropeAid Cooperation Office, and UNRWA's Commissioner General, Ms. Karen Abu Zayd, announced that the EU will be making a contribution of €39.7 million to help guarantee UNRWA’s Social Safety Net (SSN) programme in the occupied Palestinian territory, which helps meet the needs of some of the poorest and most vulnerable Palestine refugees.
UNRWA's "Social Safety Net" programme provides direct food aid and cash assistance to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees. Of the almost 4.6 million refugees registered with UNRWA and eligible for services, just under six per cent receive this kind of special assistance, with the largest percentage of recipients coming from Gaza. Unfortunately rapid population growth and rising poverty levels (recent estimates suggest 80% of Palestinians in Gaza, 47% in the West bank and 30% in Lebanon live below the poverty line), mean that the number claiming assistance is likely to rise in the future – making support for the programme all the more crucial.
The contribution agreement, which was signed at a ceremony in Brussels last week, will fund the majority of the programme's financial needs for 2009 and 2010 for the whole of the occupied Palestinian territory, and will benefit more than 151,000 vulnerable refugees.
"By supporting social measures to protect the most vulnerable, the EU's funds will have a real and tangible impact on the lives of Palestine refugees, and in particular those now living in Gaza," said Marcus Cornaro. "Alleviating poverty is a cornerstone of the EU's development policy and today we are fulfilling our pledge to the Palestinian people that we will not let them down."
"Through this contribution the European Union has once again made clear its commitment to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees, and its stalwart support for human development", said Karen Abu Zayd.
The funds come from a special €1 billion Food Facility which was created last year by the EU to help developing countries to deal with crises in the face of rising worldwide food prices.
Since 1971 the European Union has regularly supported UNRWA, becoming its largest multi-lateral donor. Over the period 2000 to 2009, the European Commission has provided nearly €1 billion of support to the Agency. Today's announced funds are in addition to those contributions. This financial support, when combined with contributions from individual EU Member States, represents more than half of UNRWA's total budget.