At a time fighting the spread of coronavirus pandemic is eating at world budgets, an official at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said today the agency is also scrambling to get badly needed support to help it maintain its services after April, when its money runs out.
Gwyn Louis, West Bank Director of UNRWA Affairs, told WAFA that she is worried that the money the agency has will run out at the end of April.
“I am very, very much concerned about budget and the financial situation,” she said in a telephone interview. “We have something until the end of April to continue with our services, but then we have no additional funding in getting the corona response and to meet the needs of the community.”
UNRWA runs medical clinics, schools and provides social assistance to some 5 million Palestinian refugees in Palestine – East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza – Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. However, with the coronavirus outbreak, all schools everywhere were shut down and most health work was focused on dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
In the West Bank village of Biddo, for example, where some two-dozen corona cases were confirmed and one death, UNRWA had to shut down its clinic that was providing services to the Palestinian community in that part of the West Bank. With the closure, services were being provided by phone, instead.
In the rest of the occupied territories and elsewhere in its fields of operation, UNRWA continues to provide health services at its clinics and hospitals.
With the closure of schools, UNRWA tries to provide online education to hundreds of thousands of its students.
“We provide online learning material,” said Louis. “We provide the material and then guide the students in the learning process.”
UNRWA staff also try to help parents deal with the fact that their children are at home all the time.
“These are very difficult times,” said Louis. “We call parents to make sure they are okay. It is very difficult for children to be caught at home. We try to maintain our outreach and give help as much as we can.”
But the budget remains the main concern, without which UNRWA may find itself unable to continue with its vital services in this difficult time.
“We have no money coming in and therefore it is a challenge,” explained the UNRWA director of operations in the West Bank. “Whatever funding we get is immediately going into the community. We are now using funding that we have for other programs, which potentially could impact some of our activity in April.”
She added: “Donors are looking into needs and some donors want to support the Palestinian Authority, which is the right thing to do since we also work together. We are hoping we will get some support in the coming days.”