Cash reserves of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees have plummeted from $60 million in 2006 to just $1 million, enough for less than one day’s average expenditure, a senior official said today, warning of “the very real prospect” of having to make cuts in basic education and health services.
“Effectively we are now running on empty,” UNRWA Deputy Commissioner General Filippo Grandi told the agency’s annual pledging conference at UN Headquarters in New York. “As everyone can understand, driving a complex machine such as ours on little or no fuel dramatically raises the odds, sooner or later of a breakdown.”
On present projections, UNRWA is facing a deficit next year in excess of $150 million to its overall budget, with it General Fund requirement for 2009 standing at $545 million.
“The social, humanitarian and potentially political repercussions in this already volatile region do not need to be spelt out,” Mr. Grandi said. “These new financial pressures come at a precarious time. Refugee needs are growing and becoming increasingly complex.
“Unless we get significant new or increased pledges in the next six months, there will be serious consequences for the refugees.”
Meanwhile UNRWA managed to get 13 trucks into the Gaza Strip today with medicine and cooking oil, but the Agency said this was still not enough for the area, whose 1.5 million inhabitants have been subjected to a series of Israeli closures in recent months.
Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced regret that Israel had not heeded his call to urgently permit the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s civilian population. At the same time he reiterated his condemnation of rocket and other attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza against Israeli civilian targets, which Israel has cited as a reason for the closures.