Saudi Arabia donates US$ 35 million to UNRWA
Saudi Arabia this week communicated to UNRWA that it has approved an assistance package worth US$ 35 million dollars. The majority will be spent on education and health in Gaza, on upgrading schools and health centres in Jordan, on the construction of three health centres in the West Bank and on maintaining buildings across the areas where UNRWA operates. It is estimated that US$ 19 million will contribute to reducing the current financial deficit of US$101 million in UNRWA’s General Fund for core services such as education and health.
Making the announcement, His Excellency Engineer Yousef Al-Bassam, Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), said the donation comes in response to UNRWA’s deepening financial crisis.
“The SFD along with the people and government of Saudi Arabia will not sit by whilst the gains made by UNRWA face being unraveled because of a lack funding. The closure of schools for half a million Palestinian children would be a catastrophe. I hope the rest of UNRWA’s steadfast partners will take heart in the continued confidence placed in the Agency by the Kingdom with this latest contribution, and step forward with their own pledges to keep UNRWA’s operations going.”
UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, paid tribute to this timely and generous contribution. “I am deeply grateful to the government and people of Saudi Arabia. At this time of severe crisis, this donation is received as a strong message of solidarity towards Palestine refugees and UNRWA. Education for Palestine refugee boys and girls is a right that we defend with our utmost energy. I must state again that the risk of a delay to our school year remains real unless we can cover our 101M US$ deficit in coming days.”
In May this year, UNRWA signed agreements with the Saudi Fund for Development worth US$ 111.5 million, bringing to US$ 146.5 million the total of the SFD’s donations to UNRWA so far for 2015. Saudi Arabia is the third largest donor to UNRWA.
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.
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