Of the some 5 million Palestine refugees it serves across five fields of operations, UNRWA conservatively estimates that 1.2 million live in absolute poverty. More than 20 per cent of UNRWA refugees are poor. More disturbing, an estimated 700,000 Palestine refugees are abject poor, unable to meet even their basic food requirements. The objective of the relief and social services (RSS) reforms are to enable the Agency to provide more services with greater positive impact to vulnerable refugees.
UNRWA, with the support of donors, has made considerable strides in its ability to identify and evaluate poverty within the Palestine refugee community. The Agency has also completed considerable groundwork to underwrite change. This includes an increased focus on development, economic empowerment and sustainable livelihood activities. The reform includes a gradual move to the 'best practice' of cash transfers. Cash transfers will target food-insecure households through unconditional cash for people unable to work, job opportunities for those able to work and conditional cash transfers to incentivize families to keep children in school.
While these reforms are underway, the current food programme is in urgent need of support until other forms of assistance become available.