What We Do

The UNRWA microfinance department provides sustainable income-generation opportunities for Palestine refugees, as well as other poor or marginalised groups who live and work near them.
Number of Loans Awarded (cumulative)
Value Of Loans Awarded (US$) (cumulative)
Youth Outreach
Women Outreach

The UNRWA microfinance department provides sustainable income-generation opportunities for Palestine refugees, as well as other poor or marginalised groups who live and work near them.

It extends credit and complementary financial services to households, entrepreneurs and small-business owners. These investments create and sustain jobs, reduce poverty and empower our clients, particularly women.

Many of the microfinance programme’s clients operate small, often informal businesses on the margins of the economy. They include fishermen, garage-owners, at-home seamstresses and vegetable stall-owners. We focus our microfinance operations on the poor urban areas where refugees often live, as these tend to be centres of commercial and industrial activity.

To create self-employment opportunities for youth between 18 and 30 years of age, our microfinance programme also provides start-up loans for young people looking to start their own businesses.

By lending to Palestine refugees, women, youth and other marginalized clients, the microfinance department supports UNRWA’s human development goal of “A Decent Standard of Living.” The department organizes its programming with the strategic objective of providing its clients with “inclusive financial services and increased access to credit and saving facilities” that can provide them with new opportunities.  

Microfinance In Our Fields

Gaza was the initial location for UNRWA microfinance activities, which began in 1991 with an initial capital fund of less than US $500,000. Several of our initiatives were also first launched there, including collective loans to groups of women entrepreneurs, in 1994, and microenterprise credit loans, in 1997. Over the twenty-four years since the first loans were given, Gaza has accounted for 28 per cent of our microfinance work, receiving a total of 112,271 loans worth US $131.6 million.

In the year before hostilities broke out in December 2006, Gazans received 12,000 loans, worth...Read more

Home to eight branch offices, the West Bank has the most extensive network of the four areas served by the UNRWA microfinance department. Although a difficult environment in which to work, both politically and economically, the West Bank is our most profitable area. Since the programme’s initiation, in 1996, residents of the West Bank have received 28 per cent of our cumulative lending – 113,178 loans worth a total of US $158.79 million. 

The economy of the West Bank remains fragile, and donors have an important role in the microfinance industry. UNRWA is one of the largest lenders...Read more

The instability and violence that have affected Syria since 2011 have seriously disrupted the country’s economy, making microfinance work in Syria increasingly difficult and precarious. UNRWA completed a series of important quarterly reports on socioeconomic conditions in Syria, which has clarified the impact of the conflict on our clients and their households and enterprises. As it responded to the crisis, 14 per cent of clients are IDPs, with 28 per cent of client in Damascus internally displaced from their...Read more

The microfinance industry in Jordan is well developed, highly competitive and profitable, and at four per cent of the market, UNRWA is one of the smaller operators. Nonetheless, we play an important role in lending to support education, housing and larger-scale businesses. We began lending in Jordan in 2003, and we believe that market outreach can grow much larger than it is now, particularly in these areas.

Our microfinance programme saw the most dramatic growth over the past five years. In 2015, our total outreach grew by 18 percent, and the Agency disbursed 13,293 loans worth US...Read more

In More Detail

The UNRWA Microfinance department seeks to support the Agency’s goal of...
At UNRWA, we are committed to providing inclusive financial services for...
Products and services
The UNRWA Microfinance department has developed a range of loans to...
The Microfinance department has 21 branch offices. One new office opened...
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees