UNRWA's Syria Crisis Response: A Strong Ability to Deliver Threatened by Underfunding

06 July 2014
UNRWA's Syria crisis response: a strong ability to deliver threatened by underfunding


UNRWA joins the warning made by UN agencies in Geneva that severe funding gaps in the response to the Syria crisis present grave risks. In a briefing Thursday in Amman, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, underscored the urgency of UNRWA's funding needs, describing the Syria conflict as one that has "taken a life of its own, confounding analysts and pundits and contradicting easy assumptions." Referring to "a downward spiral in humanitarian conditions for civilians" as a feature of the Syria war, he called for higher levels of donor support to enable UNRWA to sustain its efforts to strengthen the resilience of Palestine refugees in Syria.

Over half a million Palestine refugees in Syria are particularly vulnerable due to escalating poverty, the recurrence of armed conflict inside refugee camps and communities, their inability to cross borders freely, and their dependence on humanitarian assistance from UNRWA.

UNRWA's mid-year review of its 2014 Syria Regional Crisis Response, which can be read in full here, is marked by two conflicting developments. On one hand, UNRWA’s operational capacity to deliver aid has improved significantly, to make reaching 100 per cent of beneficiaries possible in 2014. On the other, severe underfunding is increasingly threatening effective response.

UNRWA's emergency response has two priorities. The first is direct humanitarian relief through cash assistance, the most flexible, cost effective and dignified means to meet Palestine refugees’ most urgent needs in all three fields. The second is to adapt existing services to ensure the resilience of families and communities, whether it be through the use of home-learning materials for children who cannot reach UNRWA schools, or by the establishment of health points for displaced refugees.

UNRWA is grateful for the generous support of its donors, however the appeal is only 22 per cent funded, less than half of last year's funding rate at mid-year. Most of planned expenditure to meet the most basic needs, is simply out of reach. Roger Davies, Director of UNRWA Operations in Jordan, and Ziyad Qamar, Head of Donor Relations in Lebanon, spoke of the struggle to supply assistance for food and shelter to Palestine Refugees from Syria in their fields.

In Syria, if generous donations are not forthcoming in July, new cash distributions will not be possible. This will have severe and direct implications for refugees who depend on UNRWA and will undermine trust in UNRWA and the international community.  The longer political solutions are not found, the more civilians depend on urgent and basic assistance to survive.

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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank 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.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
Help send a Palestine refugee child to school