UNRWA Warns ‘Chronic Underfunding’ Will Lead to Collapse


View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 News – The commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which services 5.6 million Palestinian refugees, warned on Thursday that “chronic underfunding” will lead to its collapse.

At the UN headquarters in New York, Philippe Lazzarini asked a donor conference for “the full $817 million” to help his organization reach its $1.6 billion budget for 2022, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Failure to do so would lead to a “disruption of services,” he said.

The UNRWA, formed in 1949, services Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and eastern Jerusalem. This fall, the UN is set to renew its mandate, which Lazzarini said won’t be enough.

To avert “financial collapse,” UN nations must also provide the necessary funding to execute the mandate, he urged.

“For years, we have managed the chronic underfunding through internal measures such as cost control, austerity, and zero-growth budgets.”

“To illustrate austerity, think of 50 children in one classroom, double shifts within schools, or a medical visit where a doctor spends less than three minutes with a patient.”

The UNRWA has long been in financial turmoil, but the situation is now more acute in the face of Covid and the war in Ukraine, Lazzarini said, according to The Post.

“The situation in Ukraine has exacerbated the noticeable increase in food and commodity prices, seriously affecting the household economy of Palestinian refugees.”

Funding shortages would put millions of people at risk of no education or health care, the commissioner noted, appealing to donors to “ensure that Palestinian refugees are not collateral of the events in Ukraine.”

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