BEIRUT: The head of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees Tuesday launched an appeal for $1.2 billion in funding that he said was needed to maintain operations in 2019. According to a statement, Pierre Krahenbuhl said most of the funding would go to keeping up the agency’s vital core services for 5.4 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, encompassing education, health, relief and social services and emergency humanitarian aid to occupied Palestine.
Another $277 million will go toward supporting its Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal.
In 2018, UNRWA overcame a near crippling funding crisis caused by the United States’ decision to cancel its aid contributions.
The organization, which had counted on its annual budget of $1.2 billion, was left with a $446 million gap when President Donald Trump’s administration announced the cut.
“As we faced the most severe financial challenge in our proud history, it was both humbling and inspiring to have witnessed the extent and generosity of the response from host and donor governments,” Krahenbuhl said of the global mobilization that followed.
UNRWA managed to overcome the cuts after Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia each donated $50 million. The European Union donated another $45.7 million.
Italy will also provide an additional $1.7 million to the agency, UNRWA announced on Jan. 22.
The new funding will enable the agency to continue supporting health care for Lebanon’s most vulnerable Palestinian refugees and allow the hospitalization of nearly 1,500 Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon.
“In 2019, Palestine refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, will continue to face a range of daunting human development and protection challenges.
“Central to these pressures is the way in which the ongoing occupation of [Palestine] and the blockade of Gaza dramatically impact the lives of Palestine refugees,” Krahenbuhl said.