The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is urgently seeking $ 93.4 million for its response to Covid-19 in the areas of health care, sanitation and hygiene and education over the next three months. The required amount is an update from the Agency’s earlier appeal, with a large portion of the funding aimed at covering cash and food assistance to this particularly vulnerable population, as the socio-economic consequences of the public health crisis continue to weigh heavily on Palestinian refugee households.
Since the start of the crisis, the Agency has worked diligently to deliver essential, lifesaving services to Palestine refugees throughout the Middle East. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been distributed to thousands of front line health staff; triage systems have been introduced in all health centres to screen patients with respiratory symptoms and minimize contact with other patients; non-critical health services have been suspended; and telemedicine and door-to-door delivery of medicine and food were introduced to reduce foot traffic at health clinics and food distribution centres.
In order to ensure the continuity of education to over 530,000 students enrolled in UNRWA schools and 8,270 young people in vocational centres, the Agency Education in Emergencies (EiE) approach, developed in response to conflicts in Syria and Gaza, has been adjusted to the Covid-19 crisis and implemented. To avoid any additional public health hazard, sanitation works and solid waste collection have continued in all camps, and protective measures for sanitation workers have increased. The Agency is continuing its vital food and cash assistance programmes for the most vulnerable.
“We have seen how the crisis is disproportionally hitting the poorest and most destitute communities around the world. This is sadly also true for Palestine refugees who are amongst the most vulnerable populations in the Middle East,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. “Most refugees who UNRWA serves live under the poverty line and lack the safety net needed to absorb the financial and medical shocks created by the Covid-19 pandemic. They are now facing devastating consequences to their physical, social and economic wellbeing.”
The UNRWA emergency appeal will work to prevent a disastrous situation that could leave thousands of lives in the balance. It will help to protect against the most severe impacts of the pandemic by providing basic needs such as food, water and lifesaving health care and preventing against further deterioration to refugees’ health and socio-economic safety.
“As long as the global crisis persists,” added Lazzarini, “UNRWA will continue to adapt the way it works so that it responds to the needs and expectations of Palestine refugees. I count on the solidarity of the international community to help us ensure that Palestine refugees remain safe and able to weather the economic storm that could push this vulnerable community to the brink of disaster. This could trigger more instability in an already volatile region.”
UNRWA’s funding comes almost entirely from voluntary donations made by UN member states. The Agency has faced severe financial difficulties ever since the Trump administration stopped US aid donations altogether in 2018.