UNRWA Financial Deficit Deprives Half Million Refugee Students of Education

NEW YORK, August 6, 2015 (WAFA) – Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour warned Wednesday that, should UNRWA’s financial deficit remain unfulfilled, some half a million Palestinian refugee students will be deprived of their right to education, development, and dignity.


Mansour’s statement came as he sent identical letters to the United Nations Secretary General, the President of the UN General Assembly and President of the UN Security Council, addressing them on the current financial hardship that the UNRWA has been recently seeming.


Mansour stressed that the current financial shortfall to UNRWA’s core budget, which exceeds $100 million, and the chronic structural underfunding endured for decades by the Agency, are seriously threatening the viability, continuity and quality of UNRWA’s vital education, health, relief and social services in all of its fields of operation.


The permanent observer underscored the significant contribution of UNRWA services to the humanitarian subsistence, human development and protection of the Palestine refugees. He also stressed UNRWA’s contribution to regional stability for more than six decades, including during recurrent periods of crisis and upheaval in the Middle East.


“These facts compel us to equally underscore the far-reaching negative implications of a failure to immediately and sufficiently address UNRWA’s financial crisis and to duly alert the international community,” said Mansour in his letter.

He further warned: “The consequences of a suspension of any of UNRWA’s core services and programs are many, including humanitarian, political, security, economic and social, as well as psychosocial, for the Palestine refugee community.”


The current crisis will also affect the functioning of eight vocational centers that provide training for approximately 7,000 youth and therefore opportunities for livelihoods; will affect 22,000 staff members, including teachers, administrators and other school workers, who would not be paid their salaries during the suspension, and will affect the families they support and their wider communities during this already unstable and highly uncertain period, Mansour went on.


“It will also seriously affect all the Host Countries, which will be faced with rising discontent, frustration and needs among the Palestine refugee community, in addition to the many responsibilities and the weight they are already bearing in this regard.”


The high ranking Palestinian diplomat called upon the countries to immediately address UNRWA’s current funding crisis and avert these negative consequences, “which would further intensify the hardships and human suffering already being endured by the Palestine refugees.”


“We urge immediate efforts in particular to remedy the $100 million deficit and ensure the continuity of the education program, which comprises over 60% of the Agency’s core budget, allowing the 2015-2016 school year for Palestine refugee children to begin on time along with all the schools in the Host Countries.”


Mansour also appealed for funding for UNRWA’s core General Fund, which covers the costs of its workforce of teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers and other staff who run the primary education, health and relief programs of the Agency.


“Finding solutions will also be an important reaffirmation of the political commitment of the international community to achieve a just solution for the plight of the Palestine refugees,” he concluded.


Last Wednesday, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl warned in a report addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, that unless funding for the full amount of the Agency’s General Fund shortfall of $101 million is secured by the middle of August, the financial crisis may force the international group to suspend its educational program.


Krähenbühl underlined that the Agency was seeking to draw attention at the highest levels of the international community to the consequences for Palestine refugee children: “Nothing is more important for these children in terms of their dignity and identity than the education they receive. We are simply not allowed to let them down.”

UNRWA, which is the only source of livelihood for thousands of Palestinian refugee families in Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, has in recent months experienced an unprecedented financial crisis.


On January 27, the international group declared it was forced to suspend its cash assistance program in Gaza to tens of thousands of people for repairs to damaged and destroyed homes and for rental subsidies to the homeless.