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UNRWA defers workers' salaries over lack of funds

Palestinians receive food aid distributed by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza City, Gaza on September 29, 2020 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians receive food aid distributed by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza City, Gaza on September 29, 2020 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) may delay the salaries of thousands of its employees for November due to the "current financial crisis", the organisation's general commissioner announced yesterday.

Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement that UNRWA was "running out of money to pay the salaries of 28,000 UNRWA staff in November," adding that the agency needs to raise "$70 million by the end of the month to pay full salaries for the months of November and December."

"If additional funding is not pledged in the next weeks, UNRWA will be forced to defer partial salaries to all staff," Lazzarini stressed, pointing out that the pay cut would affect the "social, sanitation and health-care workers and teachers."

UNRWA, the agency's commissioner explained, was the "main United Nations body responsible for delivering assistance, education, and protection to millions of Palestine refugees living in the Middle East today."

READ: UK pledges $20.7m in additional aid to UNRWA

"The COVID-19 global pandemic has only exacerbated the insecurity that many vulnerable refugees already experience on a daily basis," he said.

The UN official noted that the organisation had cut "$500 million out of its budget over the past five years through enacting efficiency and cost-reduction measures," adding that this had included "cutting staff, stopping needed repairs and investments in our infrastructure, increasing classroom size to 50 students per teacher, and reducing life-saving humanitarian assistance at a time of rising needs."

Lazzarini called on international donors to fulfil their "political commitment with sufficient financial contributions so that UNRWA has a reliable stream of funding to purchase medical supplies, continue fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in refugee camps, and deliver on social services and emergency response programmes."

READ: UNRWA in urgent need of $130m to deal with budget deficit

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