The newly-appointed Director of Operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip has warned that the continuing blockade "threatens the stability of the region". Robert Turner added that UNRWA will have to reduce many of its services because of budget deficits "which will impact negatively on the lives of the Palestinian refugees".
During a meeting in his office in Gaza, Mr. Turner told Palestinian journalists that the blockade is the main obstacle to the implementation of UNRWA's operations, followed by donor countries' non-fulfilment of their obligations towards the international agency.
"The situation is very difficult, the level of funding is bad, and there is a shortfall that is estimated at $70 million in UNRWA's budget for all the regions it covers," he said before adding, "With regard to the Gaza Strip, there is a significant shortfall in the emergency programme, where only $43 million was provided out of $225 million requested from donors." This will lead to a 70 per cent reduction in the level of UNRWA services, he pointed out.
This reduction, said UNRWA's top man in Gaza, will mean that annual employment contracts will be reduced to 9,000 out of 20,000 at present, and six thousand jobs will be cut after the Summer Games programme was stopped for the first time since its inception a number of years ago.
Mr. Turner said that UNRWA needs $20 million to provide emergency assistance across Gaza in the coming months, and expressed his fear that the agency may end up cutting programmes altogether, affecting 750,000 Palestinian refugees.