search

Head of UNRWA says funding crisis leaves refugee agency unable to pay salaries

Palestinian students affiliated with UNRWA wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on November 25, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian students affiliated with UNRWA wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on November 25, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees says it is unable to pay its 28,000 employees on time this month because of a major funding crisis, warning of potential cuts in vital services to millions of people amid a global pandemic.

UNRWA runs schools, clinics and food distribution programs for millions of registered Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. The agency is regularly harshly criticized by Israel, which accuses it of perpetuating the 73-year refugee crisis, supporting incitement against Israel and turning a blind eye to terrorist activities.

The agency also went through a management crisis in 2019, when its previous head resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism and other abuses of authority at the agency.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini tells reporters in Jordan that the resumption of US support for the agency this year — which had been halted by the Trump administration — was offset by a reduction in funding by other donors.

Staff went on strike yesterday after being informed last week that salaries would be delayed, but halted the action following mediation, Lazzarini says.

“If UNRWA health services are compromised in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination rollout will come to an end. Maternal and childcare will stop, half a million girls and boys not knowing if they can continue learning, and over two million of the poorest Palestinian refugees will not get cash and food assistance,” he says. “The humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees keep increasing while funding to the agency has stagnated since 2013.”

comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed