16 September 2010
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, expressed thanks to the Arab States and the Arab League’s Secretariat for their continued support to UNRWA and for the Palestine refugees served by the Agency. Speaking at the meeting of the League’s Foreign Ministers’ Council in Cairo, Grandi called on Arab leaders to bolster their support for the refugees during a period of unprecedented financial difficulty for the Agency. The Agency continues to face an US$ 80 million shortfall and is expecting a deficit situation again in 2011. The impact of the shortfall had direct consequences for the refugees with the Agency unable, for example, to absorb nearly 40,000 students into schools in Gaza at the start of the current school year.
Outlining the situation in UNRWA’s five fields (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem), the Commissioner-General said many challenges still faced the Agency and the Palestine refugees it served. Focusing on Gaza, he said that, in spite of some improvements, Gazans continued to suffer the harsh effects of paralysed public services, a collapsed formal economy, and the physical and psychological threats of conflict.
Turning to conditions in the West Bank, Grandi warned that the continued fragmentation of the land and serious movement restrictions remain key impediments to normalcy. The same challenges apply to East Jerusalem, home to some 70,000 refugees, he said.
Commenting on the situation in Lebanon, Grandi commended the country’s parliament for the passage of recent legislation granting the Palestine refugees in the country greater working rights. He urged the government and the donor community to use this opportunity to generate “concrete improvements in the living conditions of refugees, who for too long have languished in truly wretched circumstances.”
The Palestine refugee issue and UNRWA’s work, Grandi stressed, were linked to the most vital concerns shared by States in the Middle East, urging Arab leaders to provide UNRWA with the political and financial support it needed for the effective performance of its mandate. “While we are genuinely grateful for your consistent assistance over the decades, we cannot – and must not - avoid the reality of how much more needs to be done to address the challenges faced by UNRWA and Palestine refugees.”
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Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesperson: email@example.com / +972 542 402 659
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