UN relief agency for Palestine refugees faces
continuous restrictions, official says
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is facing "terrible difficulties" in carrying out its operations, despite high-level Israeli pledges of support, an Agency official said today.
Just back from three weeks in the region, Rene Aquarone, Chief of UNRWA's Liaison Office in Geneva, told reporters that there had been little improvement in the occupied territories since the major military operations launched in April, and what used to be an emergency and crisis situation had now settled into a routine.
UNRWA's staff and drivers continue to face enormous problems, he said, noting that curfews were continuing, with cities like Nablus under 24-hour curfew for most of the past two months. The Agency lost 72,000 teacher-work days during the 2001-2002 academic year because of movement restrictions imposed on its staff. It also lost 11,000 staff workdays at its health clinics during the first eight months of this year.
At the same time, UNRWA faces severe financial difficulties, including a regular budget deficit of $16.7 million for this year, Mr. Aquarone said. Out of the Agency's $173 million emergency appeal, only $87.5 million had been pledged, and under $ 47 million had been received.
The lack of adequate funds could force UNRWA to curtail its emergency aid quite considerably, he noted, adding that the Agency is seeking the support of donors to close the gap.