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United States Announces Restoration of U.S. $150 Million to Support Palestine Refugees
The United States announced today that it is contributing US $150 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), restoring its role as a decades-long friend and supporter of the UN agency that provides life-saving human development and humanitarian aid assistance to Palestine refugees across the Middle East.
The restoration of funds comes after recent years of severe financial crisis for UNRWA. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation, forcing the Agency to respond to a public health crisis amid the most serious financial crisis in its history and manage its resources on a month to month basis due to unreliable funding.
From the time UNRWA was established in 1949 until 2018, the United States was the largest funder of the Agency, ensuring that UNRWA was able to fulfill its UN General Assembly mandate to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees until a just and enduring political solution to the conflict is achieved.
Remarking on the U.S. announcement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “The United States is pleased to resume support for UNRWA’s services, including an education for over 500,000 Palestinian boys and girls, thereby providing hope and stability in UNRWA’s five fields of operation in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The newly announced U.S. funding will support the overall UNRWA programme budget -- the majority of which funds the operation of more than 700 schools educating over half a million children and almost 150 primary health clinics providing 8.5 million patient consultations a year -- as well as emergency appeals to respond to dire humanitarian challenges in Syria, the West Bank (including in East Jerusalem) and Gaza. These funds will support food, emergency cash assistance, emergency health, mental health and psychosocial support, education in emergencies, protection, water and sanitation, and COVID-19 response.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini expressed gratitude for the renewed UNRWA-U.S. relationship and welcomed the funding disbursement. “UNRWA and the United States are historical partners in working together, alongside other generous UN Member States, to ensure that Palestine refugees can thrive. UNRWA could not be more pleased that once again we will partner with the United States to provide critical assistance to some of the most vulnerable refugees across the Middle East and fulfill our mandate to educate and provide primary health care to millions of refugees every day. There is no other institution that does what UNRWA does, and we are committed to protecting the safety, health and future of the millions of refugees we serve. The U.S. contribution comes at a critical moment, as we continue to adjust to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents. We encourage all Member States to contribute 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 5.7 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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