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UNRWA highlights the needs of vulnerable Palestine refugee families in the wake of the Beirut explosion
Beirut, 7 August 2020
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) expresses its solidarity with the Lebanese people after the catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut. UNRWA fears that its aftermath will hit the vulnerable communities in Lebanon the hardest, sinking people such as Palestine refugees further into despair.
The explosion that shook Beirut on 4 August has destroyed most of Lebanon’s grain reservoir when the silos where the grains are stored collapsed along with most of Beirut’s harbor. The harbor is the main commercial entry point to Lebanon, a country that imports most of what its population consumes.
This tragic incident is the latest in a series of events that have plunged Lebanon in the most serious existential crisis of its recent history, and comes on the heel of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis on people’s health and livelihoods.
“The entire country is shaken by the scale of the damage, something that we fear will add further hardship on already vulnerable communities,” said Claudio Cordone, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon. “Palestine refugees are already amongst the most vulnerable in the country, many of them largely depending on emergency cash assistance that they receive from the Agency to be able to feed their families.”
The huge financial and economic challenges that are sweeping across the country have put a large percentage of the population under the poverty line. The lockdown and restrictions caused by COVID-19 stripped vulnerable communities, including Palestine refugees, from the meager access they had to employment opportunities. And while the harbor explosion did not have a major physical impact on Palestine refugee camps and UNRWA installations, the overall effect on the country will most likely affect the vulnerable communities most.
“Everyone in Lebanon needs support in the aftermath of this traumatic event, including Palestine refugees, who are in particular need of a lifeline,” said Mr. Cordone. “The international aid community must include Palestine refugees in its immediate emergency response, hence the need to ensure that they continue receiving much needed cash assistance so that they can buy food and stay safe. Every dollar UNRWA receives in Lebanon will go towards supporting Palestine refugee families. UNRWA will also need financial support to boost the economic recovery and livelihoods for Palestine refugees.”
UNRWA has made its medical warehouses and logistics available and remains ready to contribute to the overall UN humanitarian effort in the country.
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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 5.6 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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