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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
10 December 2008

10 December 2008

“UNRWA Financial Crunch”

News Release for Immediate Publication

UN Refugee Agency Warns of Cuts in Education and Health Services

New York, 10th December 2008: Filippo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency, today warned that unless the Agency’s financial outlook improves significantly in the coming months UNRWA faced “the very real prospect of having to make cuts in basic education and health services”.

Addressing the annual pledging conference for UNRWA at the UN General Assembly in New York, Grandi highlighted the consequences of cutting UNRWA’s core services. “The social, humanitarian and potentially political repercussions in this already volatile region do not need to be spelt out”, he said. “These new financial pressures come at a precarious time. Refugee needs are growing and becoming increasingly complex”.

On present projections, UNRWA is facing a deficit next year in excess of 150 million US dollars to its overall budget. “We are profoundly grateful to those donors who have recently increased the levels of their support in national currency terms”, said Grandi, “but I must warn that these are not normal times; and, unless we get significant new or increased pledges in the next six months, there will be serious consequences for the refugees”. In recent weeks, senior UNRWA officials have become increasingly concerned about the potential consequences of the combined effects of cost increases, deteriorating foreign exchange trends, and the global financial crisis

UNRWA’s cash reserves have plummeted from just over 60 million US dollars at the beginning of 2006, to just 1 million US dollars this month, enough for less than one day’s average expenditure. “Effectively we are now running on empty. As everyone can understand, driving a complex machine such as ours on little or no fuel dramatically raises the odds, sooner or later of a breakdown”, Grandi warned.

UNRWA’s General Fund requirement for 2009 stands at 545 million US Dollars. The Agency is considered by its donors and the refugee host governments to make a valuable contribution to regional stability and peace through its human development work in the fields of education, health and education.

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