UN agency for Palestine refugees faces funding shortfall of over 100 mln dollars

The UN agency for Palestine refugees now faces a funding shortfall of over 100 million U.S. dollars for 2022 after Thursday’s pledging conference raised 160 million dollars, said Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, on Friday.

The shortfall is consistent with the discrepancy of funds that the agency has faced every year for almost a decade. The agency has so far been able to move along through a number of austerity and cost-control measures. But today it is no longer possible to sustain, Lazzarini said. “There is very little to cut from our cost without, in fact, cutting our services.”

If the funding gap fails to be filled in the next couple of months, the delivery of education to more than half a million girls and boys, or the access to primary health care for close to 2 million people, or the emergency food and cash assistance to the poorest Palestine refugees might be seriously at risk, he warned. “We have entered a danger zone.”

“It is not the time to turn our back on some of the most successful human development story in the Middle East. This can only fuel further despair and the feeling of abandonment of one of the most destitute communities in the region at a time when there is a lack of political horizon, and unprecedented economic crisis and multiple conflicts,” Lazzarini told reporters. “Fatigue should not be an option, and indifference to this, I would say, even less.”

Finding a solution to the agency’s chronic financial problem requires political will to match the support for the mandate with sufficient resources, he said. “We are expected to provide government-like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region. But we are funded like an NGO because we depend completely on voluntary contributions.”

The agency, officially known as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, currently helps some 5.6 million Palestine refugees and their descendants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria as well as in West Bank and Gaza, by providing education, primary health, and social protection.