EU contributes €14 million to help UNRWA create thousands of new jobs in Gaza

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The European Union (EU) announced today a contribution of EUR 14 million to the job creation programme (JCP) of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza Field Office, provided through a strategic tool of the EU known as the Instrument for Stability (IfS). This is designed to respond to crises around the world and in the occupied Palestinian territory it focuses – inter alia - on improving the living conditions of the population in the Gaza Strip. The funds will provide job opportunities for 7,270 unskilled beneficiaries, and 3, 712 for skilled beneficiaries (including professionals and graduates).

“These funds will assist in mitigating the effects of the protracted economic crisis on vulnerable Palestine refugee households by providing short-term employment opportunities and much-needed income to over 10,000 individuals”, said UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza Robert Turner, accepting the donation. “On a larger level, this injection of cash into the local economy will also provide vital support to private industry, thus contributing to economic growth in Gaza.”

With this EU contribution, more than 5,000 jobs will be provided to Palestine refugees to support UNRWA and partners in the delivery of basic services to the larger community. JCP workers will support Agency services in vital areas including education, health, solid waste removal and relief services. In addition, over 6,000 jobs will be provided over the next three years to support the private sector, contributing to economic growth in Gaza. These jobs will reduce aid dependency and improve the psychological well-being of workers and new graduates, in addition to providing valuable professional work experience.

"Our new support is a direct response to the high unemployment in Gaza and its dire economic impact. By providing funds for the Job Creation Programme of UNRWA – with whom the EU has a strong and lasting partnership – we can bring immediate relief to many of the most vulnerable families. Our contribution reflects the aspirations of the men and women in Gaza to lead normal lives, work and provide to their families. The EU has been very clear on the crucial need for the full opening of the crossings for the flow of goods and people to allow for the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza", said the EU Representative Mr John Gatt-Rutter.

With very limited possibility for export due to the ongoing blockade, the private sector in Gaza has virtually collapsed, leaving the population of 1.7 million people, most of whom are refugees, dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. With unemployment rates for Palestine refugees as high as 30.9 per cent in 2012, the support that JCP provides for the private sector is particularly significant, facilitating economic recovery in Gaza.

Background information:
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund, supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit.

The European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. Between 2000 and 2012, the EU, excluding EU member states alone, has provided over EUR 2 billion of support to the Agency. This funding has enabled human development for the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

For more information, please contact:
UNRWA Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesperson Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659, Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267, c.gunness@unrwa.org

Sami Mshasha, UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295, Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724, s.mshasha@unrwa.org

EU Antonia Zafeiri, +972 (0)54 802 4915 antonia.zafeiri@eeas.europa.eu Shadi Othman, +972 (0)59 967 3958 shadi.othman@eeas.europa.eu