Jordan’s Queen praises UN’s vital lifeline for Gaza

17 February 2009

Queen Rania of Jordan today urged all donors to honour their pledges to the United Nations agency responsible for helping millions of Palestinians amid warnings that a shortfall could force it to stop paying thousands of staff such as teachers and doctors.

Saying she could not imagine how the people of Gaza would have survived the recent Israeli military offensive without the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Queen told an emergency session of the Agency's Advisory Commission in Amman, Jordan, that a halt to payments was “unthinkable.” The current shortfall in UNRWA's General Fund is $52 million.

The Agency had offered the people of Gaza a “glimmer of hope” during and after the war, she said, describing it as a “teacher, doctor and food provider” which worked with “incredible resourcefulness” to offer a lifeline to the people of Gaza.

Queen Rania paid tribute to Agency staff, calling them “real heroes” who had worked with “remarkable bravery and dedication,” adding that it was her ambition following the conflict to go to Gaza “and shake each and every UNRWA staff member by the hand.”

UNRWA, which tends to the needs of 900,000 Palestinian refugees in the Strip, has already unveiled a $345 million “Quick Recovery Plan” for Gaza, which has so far received nearly $145 million in confirmed pledges.

The European Commission today announced an additional 41 million euro contribution to the Agency.

“Support for our General Fund has never been so important in light of our human development and relief work in the wake of the Gaza conflict,” UNRWA Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd told the meeting. “These funds will contribute towards UNRWA’s Social Safety Net Programme.”

Meanwhile, the office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory reports that three non-school emergency shelters run by UNRWA remain open in Gaza. They host around 360 people, but the total number of displaced persons remains unknown.

The office also reports that 50,000 Gazans still do not have access to running water, while an additional 100,000 receive water every seven to ten days. There is also a continued shortage of drinking water in schools.

UNRWA is also helping to run a vaccination campaign against measles, mumps and rubella, which is targeting 120,000 students in Gaza. The campaign includes awareness sessions about infectious diseases, and each student is to receive a dose of vitamin A.

For its part, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has voiced concern that miscarriages and neo-natal deaths increased in Gaza during the recent conflict.

Regarding food security, the World Food Programme (WFP) notes that while vegetables are available, access to red meat, poultry meat and eggs is being affected by high prices resulting from shortages of animal feed.


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