Nearly two dozen international donors have pledged around $100 million for the United Nations agency that provides humanitarian relief to millions of Palestine refugees, although funding for 2007 is still inadequate and the Gaza Strip is an “economy on life support,” the agency’s deputy has warned.
Since its establishment in 1949, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), has become the world body’s largest operational body and currently provides education, health, relief and social services to more than 4 million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The approximately $99.8 million pledges for UNRWA’s 2007 budget came at a meeting yesterday of the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary Contributions, however the Agency is seeking around $487 million for the General Fund next year and already faces an operational deficit of over $100 million.
UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi said that in contrast with the cautious optimism of last year, international organizations were now warning about the dire situation facing the Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank.
He said that the poverty rate in Gaza had reached a staggering 80 per cent, resulting in “an economy on life support – kept barely alive by the drip feed of international assistance,” and he further predicted that the Emergency Appeal for next year would need to rise considerably to accommodate the growing needs.
After the election victory of Hamas, which has yet to renounce its commitment to Israel’s destruction, Israel stopped handing over tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and international donors suspended direct aid, calling on Hamas to commit to non-violence, recognize Israel and accept previously signed agreements.
Sweden, Bahrain, the Netherlands, Egypt, Turkey, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Slovenia, China, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and France made pledges at yesterday’s meeting. Japan, the United States and the European Community said they would announce a pledge at a later date.