What We Do

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

Overview

The UNRWA microfinance programme seeks to support the Agency’s human development goal of “a decent standard of living” for the 5.4 million Palestine refugees we are mandated to serve. In one of the world’s most challenging environments for microfinance, we provide access to credit and related services to Palestine refugees and other poor and marginalized groups, many of whom have no access to commercial credit. With support from UNRWA, these people – including entrepreneurs, businesspeople, households and individuals – can create and sustain jobs and find new opportunities to generate income and assets. 

UNRWA began its microfinance programme in 1991, in Gaza Strip, with an initial capital fund of less than US$ 300,000. The programme expanded to the West Bank in 1996 and remains the second largest microfinance institution in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). In 2003, we began working in Jordan and Syria, as well. Both markets saw quick and dramatic growth, becoming larger than our operations in the oPt within five years. Over the past decades, our Department of Microfinance has become not just one of the largest such institutions in the area, but also the only truly regional programme. 

We are proud of our track record in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Syria, and hope to continue working in these areas to empower and support our clients. In the twenty-six years between 1991 and 2017, the department extended 475,905 loans across these four fields, giving clients access to a total of US$ 531.41 million. The department is run on a self-sustaining basis and continues to benefit from donor grants from important stakeholders for the purpose of expansion its operations to satisfy the needs of its clients.,. 

Human development is an important goal for our microfinance programme, but we understand that this service must be sustainable. We work in accordance with the standards and practices of the global microfinance industry and aim to recoup our operating expenses, while charging rates of interest that are affordable to our clients and competitive with other microfinance providers.

Timeline

1991

The UNRWA microfinance programme launches in Gaza, with an initial capital fund of less than US $300,000, providing credit to small and medium-scale businesses.

1994

UNRWA introduces a loan product targeted at small groups of women entrepreneurs in Gaza.

1995

UNRWA launches a small-business training programme in Gaza that provides training in subjects such as book-keeping, taxation, computing and e-commerce.

1996

The West Bank becomes the second area of operations for the UNRWA Department of Microfinance.

1997

The UNRWA Department of Microfinance begins to operate on a self-sustaining basis, capitalized by donor grants from a number of important stakeholders.

2001

UNRWA pilots small lending in Gaza to help distressed and low-income families cover basic consumption, education and health costs.

2003

UNRWA begins providing microfinance services in Jordan and Syria, beginning with non-gender-specific loans providing microenterprise credit.

2004

An agreement between UNRWA and the OPEC Fund for International Development creates the PalFund Trust Fund, a unique fund to support Palestinian enterprises in the oPt valued at US $ 10 million.

2006

In Gaza, UNRWA launches a housing microfinance programme to help refugee families with no access to mortgage facilities.

2007

UNRWA begins, in Syria, targeted lending for home-based women’s income-generating projects.

2008 

In the West Bank, UNRWA launches a new loan product to help successful clients continue to grow and develop their businesses. 

2009

UNRWA microfinance operations receive five diamonds, the highest certification, from the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) Certificate of Transparency.

2011

In recognition of its work on social performance management, the UNRWA microfinance programme was awarded a Platinum Award by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the Ford Foundation. One of only two microfinance programme’s in the MENA region to receive this recognition.

2012

UNRWA launches a new start-up loan product, Mubadarati, to help young male and female entrepreneurs establish new enterprises to create business opportunities and self-employment.

2013

UNRWA opened its sixth branch office in Madaba to further extend its geographical outreach in Jordan. In Syria three new branch offices were established in the safer regions of Lattakia, Tartous and Swayda to replace the four offices that were destroyed and looted in Damascus and Aleppo.

2014

UNRWA opens a seventh branch office in Jarash to increase its outreach in Jordan.

2015
In its four fields, UNRWA maintains 23 operating branch offices for its microfinance operations

2017 

UNRWA opens the eighth branch office in Al-Husun to increase its outreach in Jordan.

UNRWA receives “A+” rating for its Social Performance Management form Microfinanza.

2018

UNRWA receives the “Leader Milestone” for the adherence to the Pro-Poor Principles from the “Truelift”.

An agreement between UNRWA and the OPEC Fund for International Development to convert the PalFund Trust Fund, from a trust fund arrangement into grant from OFID to UNRWA.

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