NEW YORK (Dispatches) – The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which provides healthcare and education to millions of Palestinians, is facing a funding gap of $100mn, a top official has said.
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of UNRWA, told reporters in Beirut that the agency was “facing a major financial crisis which reduced our ability to deal with the Palestinian refugees’ crisis”.
UNRWA was founded in December 1948 to provide relief programs for around 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled by Zionists from their villages and towns during the occupation of Palestinian lands by the Zionist regime - an event known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or “catastrophe”.
There are now 5.7 million refugees registered as eligible to receive aid from UNRWA.
In 2018, the administration of then-U.S. president Donald Trump cut its yearly contribution from $360mn to $60mn, before cutting all funding in 2019 - leaving the organization cash-strapped.
In April, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced that it was planning to provide $235mn of aid in a bid to engage with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
UNRWA confirmed at the time that it would receive $150mn of this aid from the U.S., barely enough to support its 700 schools and 150 health clinics that help Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
“This is an extremely challenging period for UNRWA,” Lazzarini said. “It is an extremely distressing period for Palestine refugees, one of the most vulnerable communities in this region.”
More than two million Palestinians have been surviving under a brutal Zionist economic and military blockade on Gaza since 2006, with the strip described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.