EU Welcomes UNRWA’s Reopening of School Year

BRUSSELS, August 20, 2015 (WAFA) – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Wednesday declared that schools are set to re-open for Palestinian children and refugees in neighboring countries in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in the coming weeks.

In a joint press statement, the EU said this positive and encouraging news has been made possible because of the European Union’s support, as the largest donor to UNRWA, as well as the important contributions from other partners and donor countries.

The statement said, “No child should miss out on an education; this is a fundamental right which the EU will champion. All children, no matter where they live in the world, should have access to schools and teachers. Universal access to education is indeed an investment in a better future for the next generation.”

With its Member States, the EU remains the largest donor to UNRWA. EU overall funding in 2014 accounted for almost 40% of the total support to UNRWA. Since the year 2000, the EU has provided over €1.6 billion in support of UNRWA’s work.

The EU is now, as a priority, looking into ways to continue this significant funding to ensure that schools can carry on their activities, added the statement.

Last week, UNRWA warned that its $101 million shortfall may delay the opening of 700 Middle Eastern schools providing education to Palestinian refugees this fall, in a report it submitted to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“Unless funding for the full amount of the Agency’s General Fund shortfall of US $101 million is secured by the middle of August, the financial crisis may force the suspension of services relating to the agency’s education program,” UNRWA said previously.

The shortfall affecting what is described as the pillar for Palestinians’ stability by Ban, would have meant “a delay in the school year for half a million students attending some 700 schools and 8 vocational training centers across the Middle East.”

In support, Saudi Arabia approved an assistance package worth US$ 35 million dollars to UNRWA. “The majority will be spent on education and health in Gaza, on upgrading schools and health centres in Jordan, on the construction of three health centres in the West Bank and on maintaining buildings across the areas where UNRWA operates,” UNRWA said.

It is estimated that US$ 19 million will contribute to reducing the current financial deficit of US$101 million in UNRWA’s General Fund for core services such as education and health, it added.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said in a press statement on Wednesday, “We are deeply grateful to the governments of host countries… Particular recognition goes to the President and to the Prime Minister of the State of Palestine; to the Prime Minister and to the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; and to the Prime Minister of Lebanon.”

He added, “We express profound appreciation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the State of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates – whose remarkable combined contributions cover almost half of the 2015 deficit – and to the United States of America, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and the Slovak Republic, who have together contributed generously to help address the funding shortfall.”

The total amount of contributions received to date against the deficit of US$ 101 million is US$ 78.9 million.