The government of the United Arab Emirates has announced a donation of US$2.5 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The announcement was made on December 3rd on the initiative of the President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. At the same time, the Emirati government urged all states and interested parties to increase their contributions to UNRWA in order to meet the needs of the growing Palestine refugee community.
This donation was welcomed by UNRWA, coming at a time when it is suffering from severe financial difficulties. The Agency’s reserves for 2009 are exhausted, and a shortfall of US$140 million is forecast for 2010.
Karen Koning AbuZayd, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, received the pledge warmly, saying: "I am deeply grateful to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed and the government of the UAE for this generous response to the Agency’s appeal for help with its regular budget deficit. While pledges from the Arab world towards our Gaza appeals have been excellent, we have been less fortunate in obtaining donations for our regular budget, which finances the operation of our schools, health centres and camp services. I truly appreciate the UAE’s understanding of our difficulties, and its encouragement of others to follow their example."
The UAE’s pledge marks the second donation this year from the Emirati government, which contributed US$1 million earlier in the year. The overall donation of US$3.5 million represents the largest annual contribution by an Arab donor to UNRWA’s regular budget in the last twenty years, and makes the UAE the top Arab donor in 2009 to the Agency’s regular budget.
UNRWA provides assistance and protection to Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. It does so by offering to a population of some 4.7 million refugees a range of human development and humanitarian services in primary and vocational education, primary health care, social safety-net, community support, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance and emergency response, including in situations of armed conflict. UNRWA’s role also encompasses advocacy and actions to address the human rights and protection needs of Palestine refugees.
UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. The Agency’s core budget for 2010 and 2011 stands at $1.23 billion. In 2009, emergency appeals for the West Bank and Gaza amounted to $456.7 million, with an additional $370.7 million required for Lebanon.
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