Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has warned that the $130 million funding gap the organisation is experiencing threatens core services and programmes.
Lazzarini said on Monday that the total number of Palestine refugees infected by COVID-19 has surged from fewer than 200 cases in July to more than 10,000 last week.
Beyond the health crisis, COVID-19 is also unleashing a brutal pandemic of abject poverty that is making Palestine refugees feel hopeless, Lazzarini warned. “Despair is a threat to peace and stability,” he added.
He said that rising poverty among refugees is leading a growing number of them to rely solely on UNRWA’s services, stressing that maintaining quality services requires adequate resources.
The top UNRWA official reported that the agency’s funding gap today is $130 million, while UNRWA is appealing for support for its COVID-19 response.
The organisation also needs $40 million to sustain its humanitarian operations, including food and cash assistance for more than 1.4 million conflict-affected refugees coming from Syria or living in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Failing to raise the necessary funds will impact both the salaries of 28,000 staff and the delivery of critical services, including schooling for more than half a million pupils, he continued.