ISOLATION, EXCLUSION AND DISPOSSESSION OF PALESTINE REFUGEES A "TIME BOMB"
SAYS UNRWA COMMISSIONER-GENERAL PIERRE KRÄHENBÜHL
"The isolation, exclusion and dispossession of Palestine refugees in Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon represent a time-bomb for the Middle East region", according to Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Speaking at a meeting of UNRWA's Advisory Commission of major donors and host governments in Amman, Mr. Krähenbühl said more than five million Palestine refugees today "face an existential crisis on many fronts" which he said was "a denial of dignity and rights that must be addressed".
He drew attention to the plight of refugees across the region: "In Palestine, they are approaching 50 years of occupation. Being a Palestine refugee in Gaza means being a victim of a blockade that affects every aspect of one's life and being dependent on food aid while being educated and wishing to be self-sufficient. Being a Palestine refugee in Aida camp near Bethlehem means living under the fear of daily incursions and detentions, as well as the anguish of denied access to opportunities. Being a Palestine refugee in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus means being a resident trapped by a merciless siege and bombardments and violence, deprived of regular access to water, food, electricity and basic health. Being a Palestine refugee in Nahr El Bared camp in Lebanon means trying to cope with the frustration of still living in miserable temporary shelter eight years after the destruction of the camp."
The Commissioner-General called for urgent and concerted action to address the underlying political causes of this situation, adding that the human consequences of inaction were growing exponentially.
Mr. Krähenbühl also pointed out that his Agency was facing its most serious financial crisis ever. "Currently, UNRWA confronts a funding shortfall for core activities -- such as schools for half a million children -- to cover the year 2015 of USD101 million. UNRWA at present could pay salaries and cover activities only into September," he said.
On UNRWA's emergency funding he pointed out that the Agency was in a dire situation. Funding for UNRWA's Syria appeal for 2015 stands at only 27%. As a result the Agency has had to scale back the frequency and amount of cash assistance that is distributed to refugees in Syria in situations of extreme vulnerability. In Lebanon, Palestine refugees from Syria are not receiving assistance towards housing, gravely affecting families without the means to secure shelter. UNRWA's Gaza reconstruction appeal for USD720 million Dollars has received approximately USD216 million Dollars in pledges.
With unprecedented needs faced by the Palestine refugees, contributions are falling far short of demand, and Mr. Krähenbühl said UNRWA would have to implement serious austerity measures. He insisted that these measures were aimed at reducing costs while preserving core services. Taking into account concerns expressed by refugees, staff and host governments, Mr Krähenbühl confirmed that services in health, sanitation and relief and social services would be guaranteed in 2015. He underlined the urgency of mobilizing all the necessary support to close the funding gap to ensure continued education services.
UNRWA will organize a special consultation with host governments within ten days to exchange further views on this critical situation. The Advisory Commission expressed a collective will to support UNRWA and look for solutions to the present challenges.
Mr. Krähenbühl conveyed UNRWA’s absolute determination to live up to its mandate and provide the services, support and respect that Palestine refugees should receive.
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 more than US$ 106 million.
For more information, please contact:
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Chief of Communications & Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724