UNRWA Issues Emergency Call for Humanitarian Assistance Amid End-of-Year Shortfall; Salaries of 28,000 Staff at risk, Hopes to Avoid Suspension of Essential Services

09 November 2020

The UN Agency, which supports 5.7 million Palestine refugees in the Middle East, announced it needs US$ 70 million this month to pay its staff, continue education and health services amidst pandemic

Today, Commissioner-General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini announced that the Agency has run out of money as of today to pay the salaries of 28,000 UNRWA staff in November. The Agency needs to raise US$ 70 million by the end of the month if it is to pay full salaries for the months of November and December.

“Despite all of our efforts to raise the resources needed to keep our humanitarian and development programmes running, it was with great regret that I informed our staff today that we don’t have sufficient funding at this stage to honor their salaries this month,” said Lazzarini. “If additional funding is not pledged in the next weeks, UNRWA will be forced to defer partial salaries to all staff. I am deeply saddened to know that the earned salaries of our fearless, resilient social, sanitation and health-care workers on the front lines and our teachers working to ensure students’ education continue during this emergency health crisis are at risk.”

UNRWA is the main UN body responsible for delivering assistance, education, and protection to millions of Palestine refugees living in the Middle East today. The COVID-19 global pandemic has only exacerbated the insecurity that many vulnerable refugees already experience on a daily basis. UNRWA is working on the front lines of the crisis, triaging and treating patients, keeping patients safe in established quarantine centers, implementing innovative telemedicine approaches, engaging in home delivery of medicines and most importantly educating children, families, staff, and the community about how to protect themselves during this unprecedented moment.

Over the last five years, UNRWA cut US$ 500 million out of its budget by enacting efficiency and cost-reduction measures. This has included cutting staff, stopping needed repairs and investments in our infrastructure, increasing classroom size to 50 students per teacher, and reducing life-saving humanitarian assistance at a time of rising needs.

“Today’s call to the international community comes with the utmost urgency,” continued the UNRWA Commissioner-General. “To ensure the Agency can continue its critical services and live-saving operations, it is imperative that UN Member States match their political commitment with sufficient and predictable financial contributions so that UNRWA has a reliable stream of funding to purchase medical supplies, continue fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in refugees camps, and deliver on social services and emergency response programmes. Without their income, UNRWA staff, the vast majority of whom are refugees themselves, will see their source of livelihoods disappear, and they are very likely to descend into deep poverty.”