For many years, UNRWA has been struggling with an ever more serious financial crisis, one resulting in part from a funding model that appears to represent a mismatch between what the UN General Assembly expects the agency to deliver—education, health care, relief, and social services for the 6.7 million Palestine refugees and other registered persons in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank—and the mostly voluntary nature of Member State contributions. Even after the resumption of US funding to the agency by the Biden administration, UNRWA’s financial woes have continued.
Following the heavy escalation of violence in Gaza starting on 7 October, UNRWA is urgently seeking US$ 104 million to enable its multi-sectoral humanitarian response over the coming 90 days. The requested funds will cover the urgent immediate food, non-food, health, shelter, and protection needs of up to 250,000 persons seeking safety in UNRWA shelters across the ravaged Gaza Strip and another 250,000 Palestine refugees within the community. Consideration will be given to the needs of vulnerable groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.
Following is an Update on UNRWA Gaza
- Nearly 218,600 internally displaced people (IDPs) are sheltering in 92 UNRWA schools in all areas in the Gaza Strip. The number of IDPs in UNRWA emergency shelters continues to increase on a daily basis as airstrikes and shelling by Israeli Forces continue across the Gaza Strip.
- In addition, many other people are displaced in government schools and other buildings. At least 340,000 Palestinians have been displaced across the Gaza Strip.
- Over 5,300 UNRWA staff are responding to the emergency under extremely challenging circumstances. Many roads have been destroyed or have become inaccessible due to debris and ongoing airstrikes are limiting movements.
- Shelters are overcrowded and have limited food, non-food items and potable water availability. A water crisis is looming in UNRWA emergency shelters and across the Gaza Strip due to damaged infrastructure, lack of electricity needed to operate pumps and desalination plants, and limited supply of water in the local market. Water supplies cannot be replenished due to the Israelis authorities’ total blockade on the Gaza Strip. Fuel cannot be brought in and Israeli water suppliers can no longer deliver water in Gaza. An Emergency Water Task Force was established to explore solutions for potable water supplies in shelters and beyond in coordination with UNICEF and OCHA.
- There is no humanitarian access to food or other essential supplies.
- In coordination with the World Food Programme (WFP), bread was distributed to the displaced people in the shelters. UNRWA is distributing other food to displaced families.
- Yesterday, one UNRWA health center in the Gaza area was affected by airstrikes, bringing the total number of installations affected by the conflict to 21 since 7 October.
- Yesterday, UNRWA reported that 12 of their local employees in Gaza (out of approximately 12,000) have been killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes.
- On Tuesday 10th October, UNRWA launched a flash appeal for the Gaza Strip. In response to the ongoing escalation in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA urgently seeks US$104m for its humanitarian response over the coming 90 days. Funds are needed to respond to the immediate food, non-food, health, shelter and protection needs of up to 250,000 persons seeking safety in UNRWA shelters in Gaza and another 250,000 Palestine refugees within the community. Consideration will be given to the needs of specific vulnerable groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.
- On Tuesday 10th October, the EU chief diplomat Josep Borell provided an update on the claims that the EU was reducing its aid to Palestinians, which has been met with shock in the international community (including by ARDD in an urgent email to the European Parliament. Borell stated that the Gulf States had in a joint statement with the EU agreed, “the importance of sustained financial support for UNRWA and to continue humanitarian aid and development support for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
International law and the unique, permanent responsibility of the UN for the question of Palestine make the international community legally, politically, and morally obligated to continue providing adequate funding to UNRWA that would allow it to respond comprehensively to the needs and rights of the refugees. 75 years after the Nakba, this is the minimum Palestinian refugees should expect.
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