03/15/2018, 16.49
PALESTINE – MIDDLE EAST – EUROPEAN UNION
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Another US$ 100 million pledged at Palestinian refugee conference in Rome

With a shortfall of US$ 446 million, the UN agency faces the "worst financial crisis in its history" and could cut many critical services. The situation is due to the US decision to reduce its contribution. This “could push the suffering in disastrous and unpredictable directions.”

Rome (AsiaNews) – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres today opened an Extraordinary Ministerial Conference in Rome, at FAO headquarters, to marshal support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine.

“We are here to help UNRWA overcome the worst financial crisis in its history,” Guterres said, adding that “Without a collective solution, UNRWA will soon run out of money.”

The latter is the UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Territories, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. It began operations in 1950.

It is currently facing a financial crunch following the decision by the United States to suspend part of its aid. The US is UNRWA’s main donor.

The event was organised in collaboration with Egypt, Jordan and Sweden, and with the participation of the Arab League, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation and the European Union.

Those attending included Foreign Ministers Ayman Safadi of Jordan, Margot Wallström of Sweden and Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, as well as European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl.

In his address, Guterres said that the agency has a shortfall of US$ 446 million dollars.

“Critical services could be reduced or eliminated entirely – from schools to sanitation, from medicine to microfinance to food security for some 1.7 million refugees in abject poverty or affected by conflict. [. . .] This would have severe impacts – a cascade of problems that could push the suffering in disastrous and unpredictable directions.”

In the final press conference, organisers announced that donor countries had pledged an additional US$ 100 million, "a first step towards closing the entire shortfall," said Krähenbühl.

At the end of the meeting, Jordanian Foreign Minister Safadi, Guterres and Krähenbühl thanked participants for their support and reiterated their commitment to providing the necessary services to Palestinian refugees.

In a note of optimism, in his speech, the Secretary General singled out the young people of Gaza, who are currently going through a serious humanitarian crisis.

“Yet in that place of uncertainty, the young people with whom I met were composed in talking about their situation. They spoke with passion about their commitment to democracy and their thirst for human rights. They shared with me their desire to make a difference in the world.  In that place where hope is eroded daily, these students held on to their aspirations for the future.”

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