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U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon visits UNRWA following announcement of resumption of aid
Today, United States Ambassador to Lebanon H.E. Ms. Dorothy C. Shea visited the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Lebanon Field Office where she met with the Deputy Commissioner-General of the Agency, Ms. Leni Stenseth and the Director of UNRWA Affairs, Lebanon, Mr. Claudio Cordone. Also attending the meeting were the United Nations Acting Special Coordinator for Lebanon and Resident and Humanitatian Coordinator, Ms. Najat Rochdi, the Chairperson of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, Dr. Hassan Mneimneh and the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mr. Ashraf Dabbour. The visit follows the 7 April U.S. announcement to resumption of funding to UNRWA with a contribution of US$ 150 million.
Ms. Shea was briefed on the situation of Palestine refugees and the work of UNRWA under the acute circumstances in Lebanon, with a focus on the Agency’s response to COVID-19, including its support for the vaccination campaign. In response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, UNRWA has adapted to online education, adjusted the delivery of its primary health services to ensure safe continued access for beneficiaries, and supported national efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in Lebanon. The Agency also established isolation and quarantine centres to ensure that no patient requiring treatment is left unattended. The Lebanese Government, the National Vaccination Committee, the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, the Palestinian Embassy, the UN family and civil society organizations have provided much needed support to the Agency’s efforts.
"The message addressed to Palestine Refugees from the United States today is a message of reassurance and renewal of its historic commitment”, said Ms. Stenseth. “I hope this strong display of confidence in UNRWA will help us protect the safety, health and future of the millions of refugees we serve. The United States' contribution comes at a critical moment, as we continue to adapt to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis in Lebanon.
The resumption of U.S. support will greatly help UNRWA continue and scale up its services to more than 180,000 Palestine refugees from Lebanon and more than 27,000 Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) present in the country. Services include education to more than 37,000 students at 65 UNRWA schools, health services at 27 health centres around the country, as well as cash assistance and support to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Lebanon. As conditions in Lebanon deteriorate further, Palestine refugees will continue to require additional efforts in terms of assistance.
“Like many in Lebanon, Palestine refugees are facing one of the worst socioeconomic crisis in a generation,” said Mr. Cordone. “UNRWA is expected to respond to the despair and match their expectations for more support. We need other countries to join the US in providing urgently needed support for Palestine refugees at this time of extreme hardship.”
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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