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UNRWA Commissioner-General Meets With U.S. Leaders For First Time Since Resumption of Financial Assistance
4 October 2021
The Commissioner-General to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, met with high level U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. last month about U.S. support for the Agency’s humanitarian efforts, especially following the Gaza conflict this year, and the critical role the Agency plays in maintaining stability in the region.
This visit marks the first time the Commissioner-General has visited the U.S. since the Biden administration restored the nation’s role as a decades-long supporter of the Agency. In meetings with Biden administration officials, Members of Congress, and influential NGO leaders, the Commissioner-General emphasized the urgency of continued U.S. support for the Agency’s life-saving human development and humanitarian aid assistance to Palestine refugees amid a continuing financial crisis and ongoing political changes in the region.
U.S. funding helps support the overall UNRWA program 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 support food, emergency cash assistance, emergency health, mental health and psychosocial support, education in emergencies, protection, water and sanitation, and COVID-19 response.
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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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