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Statement by the UNRWA Spokesperson on Food Distribution in Gaza
Food assistance in Gaza is the largest emergency intervention by UNRWA currently supporting 1.14 million Palestine refugees. The uniquely compelling circumstances of living under an economic blockade make such an intervention unavoidable. It is even more necessary as the COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed livelihoods and aggravated an already tenuous economic situation.
Ensuring adequate funding for this key operation is a priority in all discussions between UNRWA and UN member-states. Today, UNRWA is doubling its efforts to secure US$ 15 million to cover an uninterrupted food delivery until the end of this year and order food for the beginning of next year.
A continuous rise in the level of poverty in Gaza has affected most of the Strip’s population. Traditional ways of assessing poverty and responding to different levels of need no longer apply. Consequently, the UNRWA food assistance will cover all registered Palestine refugees in Gaza. UNRWA wants to ensure that all those who need it, get a food basket (based on the current basket for the absolute poor with an additional 10 kg of flour).
New decisions applicable as of 2021 include adding newborn children to those who will receive assistance and removing those with a guaranteed and stable income – such as UNRWA and government employees from the list of recipients, in an act of solidarity towards those who have lost their livelihood. Details on how exactly to identify those to be excluded are currently under discussion.
In line with practices in other UNRWA field offices, new plans are underway to revitalize the Social Safety Net Programme, which will allow to give cash assistance to identified groups amongst the most vulnerable groups.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.
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