7 December 2009
By Omar Obeidat, Jordan Times
AMMAN –– His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday underlined the significance of UNRWA's work and the need to improve its capabilities so that it can continue to provide humanitarian services for Palestinian refugees.
The meeting came at the same time as the agency said it needs $49 million to improve its services in refugee camps in Jordan.
Mahi Abdul Latif, the agency's senior external relations adviser, told The Jordan Times that this money, which is not part of the relief agency’s general budget, would be used to rehabilitate shelters, build extra classrooms in schools and upgrade medical centres.
In a meeting with the agency's outgoing Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd, King Abdullah acknowledged the work she has done to help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
AbuZayd in turn commended the King's efforts to bring about peace in the region and Jordan's continuous support for the agency's programmes and services.
Over the past two weeks, the agency has held meetings with Arab ambassadors in Amman and envoys of European countries to brief them on the projects to improve services in 2010, she said.
“Without the financial support of donor countries, the agency will not be able to meet the increasing and basic needs of Palestinian refugees,” Abdul Latif noted.
Richard Cook, UNRWA's director of operations in Jordan, said the $49 million requested is the minimum the agency needs to improve its services and facilities over the years to come.
“We appealed to donor states and we can persuade them to gradually increase their donations to the agency, which is facing a severe funding shortage, in order to enhance the quality of services provided to refugees,” he added.
According to official figures, 42 per cent of all Palestinian refugees in UNRWA's five fields of operation are registered in Jordan, while the allocations for the agency's operations in the Kingdom stand at only 20 per cent of its total budget.
There are 13 Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan accommodating over 337,000 refugees, or 17 per cent of the 1.9 million refugees registered with UNRWA in the Kingdom.
The government's annual spending on the refugee camps stands at around $500 million, according to official figures.
UNRWA, which was established in 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestinian refugees following the 1948 Israeli occupation of Palestine, provides basic services including education, health, training, and relief and social services to over 4.6 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria.
Earlier this year, King Abdullah bestowed the Istiqlal Medal of the First Order upon the agency in recognition of its 60 years of service to Palestinian refugees.