27 November 2013
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has called on Malaysia to show solidarity with Palestine refugees by increasing its support for UNRWA humanitarian work across the Middle East.
Speaking to journalists in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, Esther Kuisch-Laroche, Chief of the UNRWA Donor Relations Division, said: “29 November is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and what better way for Malaysia to show its support than by increasing its funding to an Agency that works with some 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank? Malaysians have a proud track record of support for Palestinians in the United Nations system and this is entirely in line with that.”
In Syria, where UNRWA has worked since the early 1950s, abut 235,000 Palestinian refugees have been displaced by the conflict, out of over half a million served there by the Agency. Over 50,000 have fled to Jordan and Lebanon, the majority to Lebanon, where UNRWA strives to provide them with services including emergency food and cash assistance as well as in health and education.
Ms. Kuisch-Laroche had a sobering reminder of the sacrifices the Agency had made in the service of Palestine refugees. “Just this week, the ninth UNRWA staff member to be killed in Syria lost his life”, she said. “Mohammad Suheil Yousef Awwad died when a mortar shell struck his vehicle in Ghouta, a suburb south-east of Damascus City. He and three other passengers in the vehicle were killed instantly. With the tragic death of yet another dear colleague, we are reminded of the extraordinary threats to humanitarian workers and the senseless waste of human life in Syria.”
Aside from Syria, UNRWA also needs to fund its emergency appeal for Gaza and the West Bank for 2014. “UNRWA is targeting food insecurity in particular with its emergency work”, Ms. Kuisch-Laroche said, “and funds are urgently needed. For example, food insecurity in Gaza alone rose from 46 per cent in 2011 to 56 per cent in 2012. With the continued tightening of the Israeli-imposed blockade, this is rising again. I hope Malaysia will be able to respond generously in 2014.”
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