The European Union (EU) has donated EUR 500,000 in humanitarian aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to step up hygiene and sanitation measures. This vital donation will contribute to the Agency’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.
Through this generous support UNRWA will provide much-needed hygiene items to Palestine refugee families in quarantine, with the aim of controlling the spread of the virus. This humanitarian aid from the EU will improve sanitation services for refugees living in camps, and also provide families suffering from difficult economic conditions with much-needed hygiene items, especially in areas which have recorded an increase in COVID-19 infections.
“We are extremely grateful for the EU’s humanitarian support,” says Gwyn Lewis, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank. “Many Palestine refugees in home quarantine are struggling to make ends meet. Providing basic hygiene materials not only ensures that families have what they need at home to protect themselves, but also reduces the economic burden they experience, which means that they can afford to stay at home,” she noted.
Palestine refugee camps have seen an increase in the amount of waste produced due to recent lockdowns imposed by the local authorities. This has created an additional burden on UNRWA environmental health laborers. This grant will allow the Agency to hire the additional laborers it needs to keep camps clean and safe for Palestine refugees.
UNRWA has continued to provide safe and regular sanitation services to Palestine refugees throughout the COVID-19 crisis and has worked to ensure that the most affected areas inside camps are disinfected. This includes periodic collection of solid waste and disinfection of waste collection points, as well as the sterilization of UNRWA installations and facilities especially health centres.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.