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UNRWA says fatigue over issue of Palestinian refugees is unacceptable

By Khetam Malkawi - Nov 15,2016 - Last updated at Nov 15,2016

Pierre Krähenbühl

AMMAN — It is high time for the international community to address the unresolved political issue between Israel and Palestine, to bring an end to the occupation and to the blockade of Gaza, UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl said on Monday.

Krähenbühl added that somebody has to take this issue up “because if we do not, we will see generation after generation growing up with this denial of justice and of rights, and this cannot be a future”.

At a press conference on the sidelines of UNRWA’s advisory committee’s meeting in Amman, the UN official stressed that the Palestinian-Israeli issue should be resolved politically. 

“In the meantime, UNRWA’s mandate is not for sale and will be there on the front lines defending rights of Palestine refugees, advocating for their dignity and addressing needs and services,” he said.

According to the UNRWA commissioner, last year’s financial shortfall in the fund provided to UNRWA was a wake-up call for the donor community, which prompted taking several measures to ensure funds are maintained.

“A year ago in [the] summer of 2015, we had one of our largest financial shortfalls in history of UNRWA, which almost led to the postponement of the school year. This created very strong reactions in the refugee community, among UNRWA staff and host governments,” Krähenbühl said.

Thus, the agency, he noted, took a number of measures in that regard. 

“We managed last year, as a result of extraordinary mobilisation, to get the needed funds to open the schools on time, and the good news this year [is that] we opened the school year again on time and this is very strong message about UNRWA’s attachment to education,” the official added.

“We will do our utmost to ensure there is stable and continued access to services that UNRWA provides to Palestine refugees,” Krähenbühl stressed.

Although he noted that such a shortfall in funds is not new to UNRWA, he said that what is needed now is a change in the mechanism.

“We need new ways for supporting UNRWA financially, and this is the thing that we are working on right now... the new UN secretary general [Antonio Guterres] will lead an exercise in the coming months to explore options and make recommendations,” Krähenbühl told reporters.

The UN official also noted that in a number of places around the world there is an impression that the Palestinian refugee issue is an old one and that the world is focusing on other things that are more pressing.

“Nobody can be fatigued more than the Palestinian refugees themselves,” Krähenbühl said, adding that the international community cannot be fatigued by the issue and nobody should be allowed to close their eyes to the situation.

According to figures he presented, UNRWA is providing 500,000 boys and girls in 700 schools throughout the Middle East with education. 

Up to 3 million patients are being treated annually in UNRWA’s 130 clinics. In addition, the agency serves 1.5 million people as part of its emergency response in Palestine and Syria,

Recently, the agency lost its 20th staff member in Syria since the beginning of the Syrian crisis and 11 staff members died in the 2014 Israeli aggression on Gaza.

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