The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reiterates its call to support Palestine refugees in Syria and in neighboring countries at the VI Brussels conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and of the Region.”
There are nearly 440,000 Palestine refugees who still live in Syria and 50,000 between Jordan and Lebanon, having fled the conflict in search of safety. Almost all of them live under the poverty line and face immense daily challenges, including difficult access to sufficient food to feed themselves and their families. Most of them live on less than US$ 2 per day.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said: “The Palestine refugees in Syria live in very dire conditions. After 11 years of conflict, some have returned to their destroyed homes because they can no longer afford rent outside. These refugees need schools, clinics and social protection.”
Since the start of the conflict, many UNRWA installations inside Syria, such as schools and health centres, have either been totally destroyed or sustained severe damage. Forty per cent of UNRWA classrooms were lost and almost 25 per cent of the Agency’s health centres are currently unusable. UNRWA in Syria has also lost 19 staff members during the 11-year conflict.
Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria Amanya Michael-Ebye stated: “Some 1200 families have returned to Yarmouk; they live amidst rubble and possibly around unexploded devices, in very dire conditions. Eleven years of conflict, displacement, soaring inflation, loss of livelihoods and now two years of COVID-19 all make their life untenable. UNRWA assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and in neighbouring countries is often their only lifeline and their last source of support. The financial challenges that UNRWA faces restrict our ability to truly respond to the needs. Our staff are under tremendous pressure to deliver critical services, with restricted resources,” Amanya added.
This year, UNRWA requires US$ 365 million to secure emergency humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan through its Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal. Palestine refugees in Syria and those who fled the conflict to Jordan and Lebanon rely entirely on the Agency’s services to survive their continued displacement. As of now, the appeal remains significantly underfunded.
“Palestine refugees in Syria, and those who fled to Lebanon and Jordan, rely entirely on UNRWA to cover their humanitarian needs and to access education and health care,” said Mr. Lazzarini. “Like anyone else, it is their right to have education and health care. As this annual conference brings together all those who support the humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis, this is a reminder that Palestine refugees must be included in the response at all times.”
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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 5.7 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.
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