Saudi Arabia pledges $71 million for Gaza housing

11 August 2011

10 August

Saudi Arabia through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) will finance refugee housing in Rafah, Gaza, to the tune of US$ 71.5 million. An agreement to this effect has been signed in Riyadh by Eng Youssef Al Bassam, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the SFD, and Mr Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA.

The Rafah housing project, which began in 2005 but has been halted for over three years by the Israeli blockade, will be restarted following the announcement in July of a partial lifting of the blockade to allow a number of UNRWA housing and school projects to go ahead. The pledge of US$ 71.5 million will cover completion of Phase 1 of the project, which is approximately one-quarter complete, and embarkation on a new Phase 2. Overall the project will comprise a minimum of 1,500 houses and associated facilities including schools, health and social service facilities, roads, sewage and electricity.

Mr Grandi said: “Hundreds of refugee families who had their homes destroyed and who have been waiting years for new homes will be delighted at this development. Many of them had been forced to live for years in deplorable conditions in full sight of their partly finished houses. An end to this dreadful situation is now at hand and we shall press ahead with implementation as fast as the limited crossings facilities for the importation of building materials from Israel into Gaza allow. UNRWA and the refugees are grateful to the leadership, government, and people of Saudi Arabia, and to the Saudi Fund, for their generous and consistent support, of which this important pledge is the latest example.

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 more than US$ 106  million.

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