Press Releases

8 October 2008

UNRWA Commissioner-General Appeals for Arab Funds

as Palestine Refugees in Lebanon Face Threat of Homelessness and Hunger

VIENNA, 8 October (UN Information Service) - The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Karen AbuZayd has made an urgent appeal for Arab funds for emergency assistance to some thirty thousand Palestine refugees whose homes were destroyed by fighting last year at the Nahr el Bared Camp in Northern Lebanon. AbuZayd called on "Arab donors to help UNRWA respond adequately to the humanitarian needs of these refugees who have endured more than their fair share of misery and displacement".

Last month, the UN's Palestine Refugee Agency appealed for $43 million for temporary services such as emergency food rations and shelter, but so far only the United States has come forward with a firm pledge of $4.3 million, while a few European donors have indicated a willingness to pledge. No donations have been forthcoming from Arab donors. UNRWA officials have said that if funds do not come in soon, essential emergency programmes will be severely reduced, since $2.5 million is needed every month for basic emergency assistance. "Unless we receive additional contributions by the end of the year, services to refugees will suffer. We must not allow that to happen", said AbuZayd.

She was speaking in Vienna at the signing of an agreement between UNRWA and the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), worth $5 million for the building of eight new schools to replace those destroyed by the fighting in Nahr el Bared. OFID has contributed $7 million to UNRWA projects since 2004 and today is the single largest supporter of the Agency's microfinance programmes which give refugees an escape from the poverty trap and offer financial self sufficiency. "This is a co-operative enterprise for which UNRWA is grateful and in which we can all take pride", said the Commissioner-General.

AbuZayd also pointed out that OFID was among the first donors to respond to a joint appeal by UNRWA and the Lebanese Government for $445 million for the rebuilding of Nahr el Bared. This will be the largest project in UNRWA's near 60-year history. In her Vienna speech, she pointed out that of the $57.8 million pledged so far, 91 per cent was from Western governments. "I hope I will soon learn of Arab government pledges, widely anticipated - and essential - if this project is to go ahead as planned".

Giving an overview of UNRWA's financial situation, AbuZayd said that her organization was facing a shortfall of $80 million from its regular budget, in part because of the rising cost of fuel which had "hit UNRWA hard". She appealed to OPEC countries to help cover $4 million of fuel costs for UNRWA operations for twelve months in the occupied Palestinian territory pointing out that the Agency helps "local municipalities in Gaza with fuel supplies for garbage disposal lest epidemics break out".

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For further information, please contact:

Chris Gunness
Spokesperson, UNRWA, East Jerusalem
Telephone: (+972-542) 402-659

Hoda Samra
Public Information Officer, UNRWA, Beirut
Telephone: (+961-1) 840-461ext. 314