In June UNRWA issued an appeal for $103 million to fund food aid, shelter reconstruction, job creation schemes, counselling for traumatised children and other emergency humanitarian work in the occupied Palestinian territory. The international community has so far pledged just $38 million - $31 million of which was generously donated by the United States of America.
The Agency described to donors the consequences of such dramatic under-funding of its appeal. The one million vulnerable refugees who receive food aid from UNRWA have seen the number of food distributions cut by one-quarter in Gaza, while the contents of their food parcels have had to be reduced. UNRWA told donors that its food aid could now meet only 30 per cent of a family's nutritional needs.
Due to the funding crisis the Agency has been able to implement only 12 per cent of its shelter rebuilding programme for the thousands of refugees whose homes have been demolished by the Israeli military. Only 23 per cent of the planned work days have been created by UNRWA's emergency job programme for the Palestinian unemployed. Just 17 per cent of the needed cash assistance for impoverished refugees has been distributed and only one fifth of remedial education had been delivered. A planned distribution of shoes and school uniforms to 70,000 refugee children had been cancelled. This is at a time when poverty has reached 80 per cent of the population in parts of the occupied territory.
Peter Hansen, UNRWA's Commissioner-General, told the donors: "Currently 60 per cent of our appeal is not funded. I think the international community must consider not only the humanitarian consequences of this, but also the psychological, social and political consequences of not meeting even half of the refugees' needs."
UNRWA was able, however, to thank donors for their generous contributions to the Agency's regular health, education and relief and social services activities throughout Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. In 2003 UNRWA's regular budget is $315 million and its forecast deficit has been reduced from $24.3 million in May of this year to $8.3 million in September.
The Agency revealed to donors that its planned budget for 2004 would be $330 million rising to a planned $339 million in 2005. However, the rising refugee population and regional inflation would mean that UNRWA's budget would fall in real terms by almost five per cent.