Switzerland Supports Palestine Refugees

06 March 2014

East Jerusalem

The Government of Switzerland has made a contribution of CHF 33.7 million (US$ 37.8 million) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The funds, including CHF 15.8 million (US$ 17.9 million) in 2014 and CHF 17.9 million (US$ 20.3 million) in 2015, will support the UNRWA General Fund, financing core services such as schools for half a million children, 138 primary health care facilities, and social safety net assistance for nearly 300,000 Palestine refugees.

At a signing ceremony on 28 February in Jerusalem, the Director of Swiss Cooperation Office West Bank and Gaza, Veronique Hulmann, said:  “Switzerland's contribution is intended to support UNRWA activities, including the provision of quality education for half a million Palestinian refugee children and access to health care for almost 3 million beneficiaries per year. The Swiss contribution will also help UNRWA continue its work to support Palestinian refugees affected by the Syrian conflict and other crises in the region.” 

The contribution is Switzerland's second multi-year agreement with UNRWA, an arrangement which gives the Agency some financial predictability and an ability to plan its huge operations.

UNRWA Director of External Relations and Communications Salvatore Lombardo said Switzerland has been a “solid supporter of UNRWA, whose financial support to the Agency's General Fund has consistently grown over recent years, from US$ 7.3 million in 2007 to US$ 16.6 million in 2013. This has allowed us to improve some our essential cores services, such as the basic education we are providing in our schools across the Middle East.”

In addition to supporting core UNRWA programmes, SDC works closely with the Agency to strengthen the quality of services provided to Palestine refugees, most recently through reforms taking place within the education programme, and to expand the scope of the Agency's partnerships through a Resource Mobilization Strategy.

Despite this generous contribution from Switzerland, the deficit in the UNRWA General Fund for 2014 stands at US$ 65 million.

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.

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