The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) formally announced Tuesday that it needs more than $1.6 billion in funding from the international community in order to meet budgetary shortfalls in 2022.
In a statement, UNRWA Commissioner-General Phillipe Lazzarini said that 2022’s deficit was the most recent of a series of chronic budgetary shortfalls brought about from a variety of factors, including COVID-19 and the withdrawal of funding sources from national governments around the world. Commissioner-General Lazzarini emphasized the risk that such shortfalls pose to refugees, saying that “[c]hronic Agency budget shortfalls threaten the livelihoods and well-being of the Palestine refugees that UNRWA serves and pose a serious threat to the Agency’s ability to maintain services.”
UNRWA is mandated to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees fleeing conflict in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon. COVID-19 has placed additional stress on UNRWA’s ability to serve Palestinian refugees, of which more than 2.3 million currently live in poverty. The pandemic’s effects followed a cut of $300 million in funding by the US to UNRWA in 2018 under President Trump, leaving the agency with limited options for managing refugee needs through the pandemic.
Commissioner-General Lazzarini called for funding support from both nations and individuals, seeking to continue UNRWA’s humanitarian relief, COVID-19 treatment programs and education for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children. Concluding his statement, he noted that “[t]he amount that UNRWA is requesting for 2022 will directly contribute to the wellbeing of Palestine refugees, to efforts to combat and contain COVID-19 and to regional stability. UNRWA therefore should be every donor’s agency of choice, as it contributes to human development, provides humanitarian assistance and helps stabilize a region that is rife with crises.”