Palestinian refugees wave national flags during a demonstration at Beirut’s landmark Martyrs Statue in October 2009. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said it is facing an “unprecedented” budget deficit that could force it to cut back on services to more than 4.7 million people.
By AFP – 2 Dec 2009
AFP – The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Wednesday it was facing an “unprecedented” budget deficit that could force it to cut back on services to more than 4.7 million people.
“There is an unprecedented deficit in the UNRWA budget, and our balance has hit zero for the first time since our establishment 60 years ago,” said Adnan Abu Hasna, the Gaza spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency.
“If this deficit continues and if donors do not increase their assistance to UNRWA we may have to cut back on some of the programmes we provide for refugees in the entire Middle East, not only in Gaza and the West Bank,” he told AFP.
UNRWA provides vital services, including food aid, health care and education, to more than 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Abu Hasna said the agency had run a deficit of 7.3 million dollars out of a total 2009 budget of 545 million dollars and was not sure if it would have enough cash on hand to pay December salaries.
The agency forecasts a deficit of 54.5 million dollars in 2010.
Abu Hasna said the international community had pledged to increase assistance to address the shortfall but had yet to deliver, perhaps because of the global economic crisis.
He specifically singled out the Arab League, which has pledged to cover eight percent of UNRWA’s budget but at present is only paying one percent.
The UN-registered refugees include those who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their descendants. Their fate is one of the core disputes of the Middle East conflict.