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Commissioner-General of UNRWA meets Palestinian Prime Minister
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, met today with the Prime Minister of the State of Palestine, H.E. Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh. The meeting took place via teleconference in view of the exceptional circumstances imposed by the global pandemic COVID-19, which has caused restrictions on movement and travel.
This is the first meeting of the incoming UNRWA Commissioner General, who took up his position on 1 April 2020, with a high representative of the Palestinian Authority. During their call, Mr. Lazzarini and Dr. Shtayyeh addressed the rights and critical needs of Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), particularly in the face of the pandemic.
The Prime Minister highlighted the extraordinary efforts of the Palestinian Authority to prevent the spread of COVID-19, stressing that prevention was critical to saving lives. He said that the restrictions on movement in Bethlehem and the prevention of access and entry to the West Bank had already yielded results, but that quarantine measures, particularly of workers returning from Israel, were still needed.
The Commissioner-General updated the Prime Minister on the Agency’s prevention and response plans that complement those of the Palestinian Authority and on the ongoing and relentless efforts to raise the necessary funds that will ensure uninterrupted services. He also briefed the Prime Minister on the situation of Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
“It is an honor to have met Dr. Shtayyeh and to have formally introduced myself to the Palestinian Authority, even in these extraordinary circumstances. I am confident that we will continue our long-established cooperation to ensure that Palestine refugees in the oPt, as well as in neighboring host countries continue to receive the protection and assistance that the United Nations General Assembly mandated UNRWA to implement.”
The meeting ended with a commitment from the Prime Minster and the Commissioner-General to work closely together to highlight the importance of UNRWA work for the Palestine refugee community and to advocate for the necessary finances that will enable uninterrupted critical services by the Agency.
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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