The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is facing a worsening financial plight amid the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, a senior official said on Sunday.
Media advisor for UNRWA in Gaza Adnan Abu Hasna said that some donor countries asked the UN agency “not to expect even half of the donations and grants they provided to UNRWA in 2021, while others said they would postpone the date of their donations.”
He noted that this coincides with the global rise in food, fuel and transportation costs.
The UN official added that UNRWA is making great efforts with many European countries to ensure that the services provided to the agency are not affected and to underline the importance of these services until finding a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.
UNRWA has been suffering financially for several years. The US halted its support for the agency under former President Donald Trump before the current administration signed a framework agreement with it to restore US assistance programs.
Last week, UNRWA’s chief Philippe Lazzarini issued a statement addressing his employees and described the agency's financial situation for this year as “challenging” despite the collective and extensive efforts made last year to raise funds and control costs.
In early 2022, the agency had to transfer financial dues amounting to $62 million from last year, and until now UNRWA has not yet been able to fully pay its obligations for the past year.
He pointed out that the financial forecasts for the current year require the administration to adopt early measures to control costs and reduce spending, to avoid disruption of services or failure to fulfill its financial obligations.
The Commissioner-General said he is currently reviewing the measures to be adopted in this regard, while ensuring they have the least impact on staff and services provided to refugees.
Lazzarini stressed that the crises in Afghanistan then Ukraine had a significant impact on the value of funding provided by donors and on the cost of purchasing basic commodities such as wheat and fuel, which are considered essential for the agency.
The UNRWA, which was established as a humanitarian agency in 1949, is fully funded through voluntary contributions and grants from donor countries.
The agency was mandated to provide assistance and protection for about 5.6 million Palestinian refugees registered in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
Its services for Palestinian refugees involve education, health care, relief, infrastructure, camp improvement, protection and microfinance.