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UNRWA announces highest ever budget deficit

February 13, 2014 at 2:56 am

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced on Sunday a record budget deficit of 65 per cent.

In a press conference, the General Director of UNRWA’s operations in the occupied territories, Robert Turner, said that the budget needed for the organisation’s activities for 2013 is $582 million while scheduled funds stand at only $233million.

Turner also said that there is a $10 million deficit in the emergency budget and that the organisation is awaiting funds from several countries including Turkey and America. “We do not decide the kind of projects we carry out, the funders do,” Turner said.

He put reasons for the deficit down to donors failing to fulfil their pledges, as well as to the increase of the number of refugees in Gaza.

“The number of refugees in Gaza was 800,000 in 2000 and is now 1.2millions,” he said. “We expect it will increase to 1.6millions by 2020.” The total number of Gaza residents is 1.8millions. More than 800.000 receive food helps and healthcare services from the UNRWA.

“This year’s budget is the highest ever because of many construction projects and job creating programmes,” the General Director said. “Between 2000 and 2013, the number of UNRWA staff increased from 7,000 to 12,000.”

During the press conference, Turner said that the Finnish development minister would be visiting Gaza in June 26. Finland is the primary sponsor of the Gaza Strip’s ‘amusement week’.

Earlier this year, UNRWA announced cuts in the number of beneficiaries of its food aid and other assistance programmes. It also ended the contracts of a number of its non-established staff.

Refugees in Gaza organised protests in front of the organisation’s offices in Gaza. After being ignored for weeks, protesters broke into the headquarters of the organisation following which Turner announced a suspension of activities.

The Palestinian government in Gaza persuaded people to end their protests; however UNRWA has not backtracked on the cuts in money and food supplies.

Meanwhile, the government urged the organisation to resume its activities and to halt the cuts it has carried out. But Turner insisted that it was impossible as donors had not fulfilled their pledges.