Global perspective Human stories

UN agency helping Palestinians urgently needs funds, Commissioner-General says

UN agency helping Palestinians urgently needs funds, Commissioner-General says

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) faces a severe financial shortfall amid a worsening humanitarian situation in the Middle East, its Commissioner-General said today.

Interviewed by the UN-produced World Chronicle television show, Peter Hansen said that in the early 1970s, the Agency spent about $200 per refugee per year - a figure which had dropped only about $70 today. "So we are clearly falling behind," he said.

Speaking about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the region, he said, "In a Western society, virtually everything that goes on now in the occupied territories, including the plight of schoolchildren, would be considered a major crisis."

Israeli fighter planes had dropped bombs near educational facilities, he noted. "Many schools in the area have classrooms plastered with bullet holes." UNRWA had programmes to try to cope with the psychological trauma of "a big generation of children who will live with very bad memories of what they have experienced."

"Mind you I'm not saying it is always the Israelis who start shooting at schoolchildren," Mr. Hansen added. "The Israelis have very serious security problems, and it's a democratic country where the Government is under pressure to do something about the fear and insecurity."

"The question that we raise is whether what they are doing is indeed the best thing pointing the way forward to the day that we sit down and negotiate peaceful solutions," he said.