The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is deeply saddened by the deaths caused by the horrific explosion of 4 August that claimed the lives of two Palestine refugees, among many others. As the list of fatalities continues to grow, so does the list of damaged buildings, businesses, schools and health centres in large sections of the Lebanese capital.
The daily operations of the UNRWA office in Lebanon continue while the Agency also lends support to the wider relief efforts in the aftermath of the explosion, for example by making its warehouses available for the storage of medicines and other humanitarian supplies by other aid actors. As Palestine refugees are amongst the most vulnerable communities in Lebanon, UNRWA calls on the international community to ensure that aid to them is built into the immediate emergency response and the longer-term plans to support the people in Lebanon.
“We must help Palestine refugees in Lebanon weather yet another storm that could push them further to the brink of despair” said the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone.
Palestine refugees in Lebanon regularly face restrictions on their right to work and own property. The majority of the over 200,000 Palestine refugees currently present in the country live below the poverty line, with their situation made worse by the deepening economic crisis and the restrictive measures triggered by the COVID19 pandemic.
UNRWA health, education and social services are a lifeline for Palestine refugees and a key source of stability in Lebanon. These services often constitute a rare element of predictability for Palestine refugees, although the financial challenges that UNRWA has been facing in the last few years have weakened that sense of predictability and added to their distress.
The most pressing need for UNRWA is to be able to continue its cash assistance to all Palestine refugees in Lebanon, estimated at $10.6 million for the next round that the Agency hopes to start in the fall.
“The funds we are seeking are a small price to pay to mitigate the hardship on a highly distressed community and contribute to its sense of security and the overall stability in the country” said Cordone. “In the last few days, we have witnessed heartening acts of solidarity from Palestine refugees towards their host community, with volunteers helping with relief efforts and clearing the rubble. They are part of the picture in Lebanon and any holistic relief plan should address their needs.”
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.