Letter from the Commissioner-General

21 November 2012

21 November 2012
East Jerusalem

Dear colleagues,

With the escalating situation in Gaza, ongoing violence in Syria, economic and social unrest in Jordan and the West Bank, and continued hardship for Palestine refugees in Lebanon, UNRWA is once again facing multiple challenges in the region.

The military operation in Gaza has already killed and injured many civilians, and several UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip (including six schools, four medical centres, one distribution centre, and two other installations) have been damaged. On 14 November an UNRWA student of Khan Younis Preparatory Boys’ School D was injured in an air strike. On 15 November, an UNRWA Arabic teacher was killed in an air strike in Jabalia refugee camp.

The already-fragile humanitarian situation in Gaza is rapidly deteriorating. Most shops are closed, thousands of tonnes of uncollected solid waste are accumulating in the streets, and the fuel shortage is exacerbated by the fact that the tunnels under the border with Egypt, which are used for the import of fuel, have been targeted in air strikes.

In the current crisis, Palestine refugees in Gaza are becoming increasingly reliant on support from UNRWA. I appreciate that many of you have requested information about our immediate needs. The Agency just opened its first centre for 50 displaced families (250 people) whose homes have been destroyed. The Agency will provide additional emergency medical care, food aid and cash, essential non-food items and sanitation. As soon as security permits, UNRWA will also remove solid waste and rubble and start repairing shelters.

These additional needs put a further strain on UNRWA‘s limited financial resources. As you know, and as previously communicated, even before the current crisis we were facing a critical funding shortfall of USD 4.8 million in our food aid programme in Gaza. The crisis has generated additional requirements and we now need a total of USD 6 million to cover urgent food distribution. This amount is required by next week in order to complete the procurement procedures for the January-March 2013 food distribution. You will appreciate that we cannot afford to reduce food distribution under the circumstances, and therefore addressing that shortfall is vital. We also need urgent funds to purchase non-food items, fuel, and medical supplies, to rapidly repair damage caused by the conflict to our premises and installations, and to remove the rubble.

The total amount immediately sought by UNRWA is therefore USD 12.7 million.  Depending on the evolution of the situation, these requirements will vary. We are working with the rest of the United Nations system on contingency and longer term plans.

I sincerely hope I can count on your support to UNRWA to help Palestine refugees in Gaza at this difficult time.

Sincerely yours,

Filippo Grandi
Commissioner-General
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

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