The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced today that it hopes the US will end its boycott of the international aid group when the administration of President-elect Joe Biden comes into power.
During a press conference by UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, at the agency’s headquarters in Gaza City, the official said: “UNRWA witnessed an unprecedented financial crisis during the past year,” one, he explained, which affected its ability to pay “the salaries of UNRWA employees.”
The international community “is aware of the details of the crisis that UNRWA is going through,” Lazzarini explained, noting that UNRWA “knocked on all doors to obtain other sources of funding” and was able to pay staff salaries in November and December.
The US, which was UNRWA’s largest donor, halted funding to the international aid group in 2018. Prior to the Trump administration’s cuts, the US had been providing UNRWA some $350 million a year, more than a quarter of the agency’s $1.2 billion annual budget.
With regard to the UNRWA food programme, Lazzarini said the organisation had established a new system that targets the poor in all regions of Gaza as a result of the increasing rates of poverty.
In light of the expansion of poverty in the Gaza Strip, Lazzarini described the year 2020 as “difficult for UNRWA, and for refugees in all their places as well,” adding: “The past year witnessed political developments and economic and social problems, in addition to the corona pandemic, which increased the suffering of people, especially the poor.”
“Palestine refugees and the poor are the most vulnerable to exposure to coronavirus, as the effects of the disease on them are greater,” he said, adding that UNRWA will have a major role in “any vaccination process against coronavirus.”
Gaza has witnessed 46,000 coronavirus cases since March with 464 fatalities.