EU announces additional €41 million for UNRWA in response to Gaza crisis

17 February 2009

17 February 2009


The European Commission has today announced an additional contribution of €41 million to support the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).  Mr. Christian Berger, the European Commission Representative for the West Bank and Gaza Strip and UNRWA, made the announcement today at an extraordinary meeting of the Advisory Commission in Amman, Jordan, which brings together UNRWA stakeholders several times a year to provide advice and guidance to the UNRWA Commissioner General. Most of the funds come from a special €1 billion Food Facility which was which was created last year by the European Union, to help developing countries to deal with crises in the face of rising worldwide food prices.

"We have already mobilised €18 million in additional funds as a response to the dire humanitarian situation caused by the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip and we will mobilise a further €22 million in the near future" said Mr. Berger. "We are also today contributing an extra €1 million to help with UNRWA‘s ongoing reform plans".

"Support for our General Fund has never been so important in light of our human development and relief work in the wake of the Gaza conflict. These funds will contribute towards UNRWA‘s Social Safety Net Programme -- a critical component of the Agency‘s Regular Programme, which faces a shortfall of 52 million USD in the current year", said Karen Koning AbuZayd, UNRWA‘s Commissioner General. "With this donation, our European friends are again demonstrating their continuing engagement with the people of Gaza through the work of UNRWA and its importance in bringing them a sense of normality".

The €18 million will go towards UNRWA‘s "Social Safety Net" programme, which provides basic food commodities and cash subsidies to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees. Of the almost 4.5 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA and eligible for services, just under six per cent receive this kind of special assistance, with the largest percentage of refugees in this category coming from Gaza. The funds will help to pay for the regular provision of a basic food basket and cash subsidies to approximately 263,000 refugees, with an additional cash transfer – family income supplements - to the very poorest families .

A further €1 million will be used for UNRWA‘s organisation and development plan. Launched in January 2007, the OD reform process is designed to strengthen the Agency‘s capacity to serve Palestine refugees. The European Commission already contributed €1 million towards this process in 2008, which is crucial in terms of safeguarding and improving the quality and level of services provided to the refugees.

Since 1971 the European Union has regularly supported UNRWA, becoming its largest multi-lateral donor.  For the period 2007-2010, the European Commission has pledged to provide €264 million to UNRWA’s General Fund and has contributed over €73 million to UNRWA‘s emergency appeals for humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, through the Commission‘s humanitarian department, ECHO. Today‘s announced funds are in addition to those contributions. This financial support, when combined with contributions from individual EU Member States, represents more than half of UNRWA‘s total budget.

The European Union constitutes the largest provider of international assistance to Palestinian refugees. Over the last decade, the EU alone has provided more than €1 billion of support to the Agency. The EU’s Food Facility, which provides funding for the most vulnerable families in the occupied Palestinian territory, is a rapid response fund established after a global rise in food prices.

To find out more about the EU’s assistance to the Palestinians, visit the Europa website

Find out more about the EU’s Food Facility

Background Information

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 US$ 100 million.

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