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World must salvage UNRWA

Jul 28,2015 - Last updated at Jul 28,2015

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) advisory commission held an extraordinary meeting in Amman earlier this week to discuss its “most serious financial crisis” since its founding in 1949.

The commission reviewed the growing risk that UNRWA may have to delay the start of the academic year in some 700 schools across the Middle East for half-a-million students unless its $101 million deficit can be fully funded. 

UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl summed up the impact of the crisis perfectly when he said that “education lies at the very heart of the identity and dignity of Palestinian refugees and of what UNRWA stands for.” 

“I am alarmed that our current funding crisis may force us to consider a delay in the start of the school year,” he added, noting that “such a decision would generate much anxiety and despair for hundreds of thousands of boys and girls deeply dedicated to their studies.”

At this week’s emergency session, which brought together UNRWA donors and host governments, the UN agency participants also reviewed a special report to be sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and all 193 UN member states that sets out the implications of the agency’s 2015 deficit, the measures it has taken to reduce costs, and the efforts to secure the required funds. 

Krähenbühl pointed out that UNRWA “schools also provide a measure of stability in a very unstable region. Possible delays in opening the school year would also have grave implications for host governments”. 

This couldn’t be more true than in Jordan where over two million of the some 5 million registered Palestine refugees live. 

A solution must be found, and fast for the agency’s current deficit. Donor countries must rush to its rescue to avert a catastrophe that will affect half-a-million young people and their families.

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