UNRWA Schools to Open on Time Thanks to $15 Million Kuwaiti Pledge

JERUSALEM, August 28, 2015 (WAFA) – A generous pledge of $15 million from the Government of Kuwait will help enable UNRWA to open its schools on time for the 2015/16 school year, said a Friday statement issued  by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

UNRWA has been facing a budget deficit of US$ 101 million in its General Fund that risked delaying the school year for the Agency’s 685 schools, potentially affecting half a million Palestine refugee children in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, said UNRWA.

On July 26, UNRWA announced a growing risk of possible delay to the start of the academic year in some 700 schools for half a million students across the Middle East, unless the deficit of $101 million can be fully funded before the school year is due to start.

“Education is central to the identity and dignity of Palestine refugees and of the 500,000 boys and girls whose future depends on learning and developing skills in our 685 schools,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl.

“Despite the many challenges and hardships facing UNRWA students today, the contribution from the people and government of Kuwait allows the next generation of Palestine refugees to keep their future hopes alive,” he added.

The Commissioner-General went on as saying, “Therefore, on behalf of the Palestine refugees, and in particular the half a million children who will be starting the new academic year on time, I express my profound gratitude to the Government of Kuwait for their strong solidarity and generous contribution.”

“Kuwait has long been an important and consistent donor to UNRWA.” So far in 2015, they have donated US$ 15 million for Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in Syria, in addition to their annual contribution of US$ 2 million to core activities in March, said the statement.

To be noted, UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, deepening poverty and conflict.

As a result, the UNRWA General Fund, which supports core essential services and most staffing costs, operates with a large deficit. UNRWA emergency programs and key projects, also operating with large deficits, are funded through separate funding portals.

The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of December 8, 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on May 1, 1950.

In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2017.