Urgent UNRWA Statement

01 September 2018

On the record in the name of UNRWA Spokesman Sami Mshasha

UNRWA expresses deep regret and disappointment at the United States' announcement that it will no longer provide funding to the Agency after decades of staunch political and financial support. This decision is all the more surprising given that UNRWA and the United States renewed a funding agreement in December 2017 which had acknowledged the successful, dedicated and professional management of the Agency.

We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA’s schools, health centers, and emergency assistance programs are “irredeemably flawed”. These very programs have a proven track record in creating one of the most successful human development processes and results in the Middle East. The international state community, our donors and host countries have consistently praised UNRWA for its achievements and standards. The World Bank described our activities as a “global public good” and recognized us for running one of the most effective school systems in the region, in which students regularly outperform their peers in public schools.

This is a reflection of UNRWA’s steadfast commitment to preserving dignity and opportunities.

The United States itself had consistently been the largest and most generous donor of UNRWA, making a much-valued contribution to UNRWA’s life-saving humanitarian work, including support for ensuring girl’s access to education, high health standards and food assistance for the most vulnerable.

In January 2018, the US had communicated a reduction of $300 M to UNRWA’s budget, providing $60 M compared to $364 M in 2017. Following today’s announcement, UNRWA will pursue with even greater determination and engagement its mobilization of existing partners - 20 of whom have to date contributed more money than in 2017, including countries from the Gulf, Asia and Europe - and of new ones.

We are extremely grateful for the widespread solidarity that our unprecedented situation has generated and the generosity of many donors that has allowed us to open the school year on time for 526’000 girls and boys this very week. This is what UNRWA stands for and as an organ of UN General Assembly, we will continue to provide high-quality services and assistance to over 5.4 M Palestine refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Background Information

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 5.4 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. 

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
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