UNRWA has been forced to suspend its monthly cash assistance for housing to Palestinian refugee families from Syria living in Lebanon. Starting from July this year, more than 43,000 Palestine refugees who fled from Syria to Lebanon and who receive monthly cash assistance of $100 per family towards housing and $27 per person towards food will stop receiving the housing allowance. While some funds remain so that the UN agency can continue cash assistance for food for the coming few months, it has exhausted all funding to support housing assistance.
“This assistance is the main source of income for over 95 per cent of those refugees who have little access to livelihood opportunities or any public services,” said Matthias Schmale, UNRWA Director in Lebanon. “Among all the refugees fleeing Syria to Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are particularly vulnerable, as they have very few alternatives for service provision and suffer from restrictions on their access to the job market. Moreover, because of their uncertain legal status they are at risk of detention, abuse and deportation. The suspension of the housing assistance will be disastrous for this already vulnerable community.”
Schmale appealed to the donor community to mobilise resources to protect Palestinians from Syria in Lebanon from unacceptable risks. “Faced with the reduction in humanitarian assistance, the living conditions of the Palestine refugees from Syria are likely to become even more volatile. We might see more and more Palestine refugees fleeing this harsh reality and trying to make their way across the Mediterranean to reach Europe. I appeal to the international community to enable UNRWA to provide the bare minimum assistance so the Palestine refugees can live in dignity while they await a just solution for their plight.”
UNRWA continues to work closely with partners and other UN agencies to mobilise resources for a scaled up humanitarian response in support of Palestine refugees from Syria in Lebanon as well as the Palestinian communities who were already in Lebanon before the Syria crisis. The agency has appealed to donors to increase support through its Call for Funds, seeking an immediate injection of $30 million. The UNRWA Syria Crisis Appeal has received only 21 per cent of the funds needed for 2015 and chronic underfunding for humanitarian interventions in Syria continues to undermine the agency’s capacity to sustain life-saving emergency interventions.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency’s General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at $100 million.