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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Qatar pledges millions to Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA amid financial crisis


The Gulf state pledged two multimillion dollar agreements to rescue the “only lifeline” for Palestinian refugees from a looming collapse. 

Qatar announced a $25 million funding agreement to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to aid the agency amid a severe financial crisis that has threatened the suspension of services to millions of Palestinian refugees across the region.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met on Tuesday with the Commissioner-General of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini who is currently visiting Doha in a bid to rally support amid financial hardship.

Qatar Fund for Development, also chaired by Sheikh Mohammed, signed two agreements with the agency to provide financial aid, including “support for the activities of the United Nations over two years, in addition to support for Palestinian refugees in Syria in several sectors, as part of Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal (EA) by the UNRWA,” according to Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Read also: UNRWA chief in Qatar warns ‘only lifeline’ for Palestinian refugees faces collapse

Earlier, Lazzarini told Al Jazeera that the organisation is now in the “danger zone” and at risk of collapsing as it continue to run out of resources that allow it to help refugees.

“The funding for the organisation has not increased in nearly 10 years,” he said.

The first agreement, worth $18 million in total, is aimed at supporting the agency’s core resources to strengthen its role in protecting the rights of Palestinian refugees.

“This agreement contributes to ensuring that the agency continues to provide its services and to enhance its role in improving the conditions of the Palestinian people in Palestine and in the host countries,” the ministry stated. 

The second agreement was provided to ensure 355,980 Palestinian refugees in Syria receive comprehensive support in the sectors of health, education and economic development, with a total amount of $7 million. 

Some $4 million in emergency cash assistance will also be provided to 52,000 Palestinian refugees affected by the ongoing war in Syria for a period of 12 months, as per an agreement in the economic empowerment sector. 

The funds are also aimed at enhancing training in technical and vocational education for some 2,125 refugees in Syria, in addition to offering vocational opportunities, with a total amount of $1.5 million for a period of 24 months.

“The agreement also focuses on supporting the education sector and ensuring the continuation of providing basic education services to Palestinian refugee students in Syria at a value of $1 million for a period of (12) months, for the benefit of 51,000 beneficiaries,” the ministry said in a statement. 

Regarding the health sector, the much-needed funds are set to provide primary and secondary health care services in Syria for 250,855 beneficiaries, at a value of $500,000 for a period of 12 months.

Qatari authorities announced the move to help UNRWA after Lazzarini warned the agency is facing an “existential” budget crisis that risks the closing of its schools and health centres among other vital services. 

Read also: ‘Education is our weapon’: EAA’s students of Gaza reveal horrors of life under occupation

For years, the organisation has been committed to assist Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA provides vital services to some 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. These services include education, health care, relief and social assistance, camp infrastructure, financing and emergency aid.

UNRWA has been the “only lifeline” for refugees who continue to struggle in crisis-hit areas, the chief added.

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