16 June 2013
The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, has told a meeting of stakeholders that seven out of the twelve Palestinian refugee camps in Syria have become “theatres of war" which are often inaccessible to UNRWA. Killings, kidnappings, poverty, destruction and fear have become part of daily life”, he said.
Speaking in Amman at the bi-annual meeting of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, Grandi said that more than half of the 530,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria are believed to be displaced; 15% of all refugees have fled abroad, including over 60,000 to overburdened Lebanon, which already hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, and over 7,000 to Jordan”. According to Grandi, “even Egypt now hosts many Palestine refugees from Syria, and some have reached Gaza”.
UNRWA has joined the United Nations’ recent appeal for fresh funds to respond to the Syria crisis for the remainder of the year. The Agency is asking donors for a total of US$ 200m for its Syria-related emergency activities.
Commenting on UNRWA’s General Fund (GF) for core services, Grandi described the current financial situation as “challenging”. "While stringent austerity measures remain in place, the projected 2013 shortfall stands at US$ 65m, and for the time being cash flow will sustain UNRWA only through October. The struggle to bridge the gap will be more intense because internal financial management has been tightened almost to breaking point”, said Grandi.
He concluded, that "the distress of Palestine refugees in Syria and displaced from Syria has given the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process an added, and very stark dimension. For refugees, this might well be another tragic turning point. They feel it very strongly. Because across the lands of their painful and protracted exile, Palestinians are connected to each other by their history, their present and their future. The loss of camps in Syria and the uncertainty that it has wrought, are suffered by all, just as the bombardments in Gaza."
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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 five 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$ 65 million.
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