The United Nations Refugees and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said yesterday it was experiencing a financial crisis that could force it to halt some services to an already impoverished population of more than five million Palestinian refugees and Lebanese citizens.
Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, told the Associated Press during an interview in Beirut that the spread of coronavirus, an economic meltdown in Lebanon and a huge deficit in UNRWA’s budget are deepening the hopelessness among Palestinian refugees, some of whom are trying to flee the Mediterranean nation on migrant boats.
“I do believe that ceasing our activity in a context where there is such a level of despair, such a level of hopelessness, can only fuel the feeling that the Palestinian refugees are abandoned by the international community,” said Lazzarini, who took office in March.
Lazzarini said supporting UNRWA “is one of the best investments in stability in the region at a time of extraordinary unpredictability and volatility.”
“We cannot let the situation get worse in a highly volatile region,” he said.
He added that the UNRWA is facing an estimated shortfall of about $200 million between now and the end of 2020 if the Agency wants to maintain all the services in its five fields of operations, including schools, health centers and social welfare.
Lazzarini said the coronavirus is having “a huge economic and financial impact also on our donor base.” He said most donor countries are in recession at a time when Palestinians need even more aid because of the pandemic and various lockdowns.