Egypt's foreign minister urges support for cash-strapped UN Palestinian refugee agency

Ahram Online , Friday 7 Aug 2015

UNRWA is currently facing its 'worst financial crisis ever'

UNRWA school damaged by Israeli assault on Gaza (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has called on donors to provide support to UNRWA, the UN body that supports Palestinian refugees, which is currently facing a funding shortfall of $101 million.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said in a report issued Thursday that it is imposing a series of austerity measures in the face of what it describes as its "most serious financial crisis ever" to cut costs while maintaining its essential services.

Shoukry had called on "donor states and organisations” to provide the necessary funding, state news agency MENA reported.

His remarks came during a phone conversation with his Norwegian counterpart Borge Brende, MENA reported.

The 66-year-old relief agency provides services and support to Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. It is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states.

The agency has warned that the crisis may lead to a suspension of its education services and a delay in the start of the new school year for half a million refugee students, unless funding is secured by mid-August.

"With unprecedented needs faced by Palestine refugees, contributions are falling short of the need for services," UNRWA said on Thursday.

As well as facing a $101 million shortfall in its core funding, the agency says its emergency shelter programme is $493 million short of the $720 million it requires.

Around 140,000 Palestinian refugees' houses in Gaza were affected by the 2014 Gaza war. Of this figure 9,000 were totally demolished, UNRWA has said.

The 50-day war killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and displaced around 500,000 people. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

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