Saudi Arabia pledges $71 million for Gaza housing
Saudi Arabia through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) will finance refugee housing in Rafah, Gaza, to the tune of US$ 71.5 million. An agreement to this effect has been signed in Riyadh by Eng Youssef Al Bassam, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the SFD, and Mr Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA.
The Rafah housing project, which began in 2005 but has been halted for over three years by the Israeli blockade, will be restarted following the announcement in July of a partial lifting of the blockade to allow a number of UNRWA housing and school projects to go ahead. The pledge of US$ 71.5 million will cover completion of Phase 1 of the project, which is approximately one-quarter complete, and embarkation on a new Phase 2. Overall the project will comprise a minimum of 1,500 houses and associated facilities including schools, health and social service facilities, roads, sewage and electricity.
Mr Grandi said: “Hundreds of refugee families who had their homes destroyed and who have been waiting years for new homes will be delighted at this development. Many of them had been forced to live for years in deplorable conditions in full sight of their partly finished houses. An end to this dreadful situation is now at hand and we shall press ahead with implementation as fast as the limited crossings facilities for the importation of building materials from Israel into Gaza allow. UNRWA and the refugees are grateful to the leadership, government, and people of Saudi Arabia, and to the Saudi Fund, for their generous and consistent support, of which this important pledge is the latest example.
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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