The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has called for more support to help the organisation assist vulnerable Palestinian refugee families, amid the deteriorating financial situation in Lebanon.
“The humanitarian situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is extremely alarming,” UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Philippe Lazzarini, said yesterday.
The UN official also emphasised the harsh living conditions in Lebanon amid a rise in poverty and unemployment, worsened by the spread of cholera.
Following his return from a field visit to meet with refugees in Lebanon, he said, “People are dying a slow death, as many are unable to afford medicines or co-share the cost of treatment especially for chronic diseases and cancer. Levels of poverty and unemployment are unprecedented due to one of the worst economic crises in recent history.”
Lebanon hosts about 210,000 Palestinian refugees, including 30,000 who fled Syria after the start of the 2011 civil war.
“People in Lebanon, among them Palestine refugees, are suffering and paying the price for something not of their making. I met with Palestinian refugees during my visit who are completely ravished by poverty, despair and lack of prospect,” Lazzarini added.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in twelve UN-registered refugee camps, as well as numerous informal, unregistered “gatherings” around the country. They suffer from very bad economic and humanitarian conditions that have been exacerbated by the current political, economic and medical crises in the host country.
Last month, the UNRWA made an urgent appeal for $13 million in funding for cash assistance to families, primary health care services and to keep the Agency’s schools open until the end of the year.
In response, Germany has donated $6 million for refugees in Lebanon. “With this support, UNRWA will be able to do a round of cash assistance distribution to the most vulnerable, as they prepare for winter,” said Lazzarini.
“While this is very welcome, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. People in Lebanon need and deserve to have a better life, far from dependence on humanitarian and cash assistance. It is a nation known for its creativity, generosity and love of life against all odds,” Lazzarini said.
He added, “However, until a more sustainable solution is found, UNRWA will continue to do everything possible to help Palestine refugees have a life of dignity. I call for further support to UNRWA so that we continue to assist families in need.”