These subsidies are provided in addition to the food and cash aid these refugees receive under UNRWA's Special Hardship Case programme. The cash subsidies give families the flexibility to make purchases according to their primary needs and to increase the likelihood of their buying fresh foods.
The provision of cash subsidies to the most vulnerable refugees is part of UNRWA's efforts to reform its Special Hardship Case programme, to be renamed the Social Safety Net programme beginning in January 2009.
The targeting of aid to the poorest refugees is in line with the international agenda on poverty alleviation and the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty.
The European Union (EU) is UNRWA's largest donor for food aid and the only donor contributing to the cash component of UNRWA's Special Hardship Case programme. EU support for the cash component in 2008 amounted to €8 million, while ECHO provided €15 million for food parcels.
"This grant of new funds for the most vulnerable Gazans demonstrates clearly that the European Commission is living up to its undertaking that it will never let the people of Gaza down," said Roy Dickinson the European Commission's Head of Operations. "In partnership with the Palestinian Authority, and in partnership with UNRWA, the European Union has managed to maintain flows of assistance - in contributions to salaries and pension, in fuel, medicines and food - in even the most difficult times. And we are completely determined to continue to do so, whatever the obstacles."
UNRWA's Commissioner-General, Karen Koning AbuZayd, stated that, "This contribution will provide much needed help to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza. These are families least able to cope with the suffering and deprivation caused by the occupation and the closure of Gaza's borders. We are grateful to the EC for coming to their aid at a time of great distress for all Gazans."
Since 1971 the European Union has regularly supported UNRWA, becoming its largest multi-lateral donor. For the period 2007-2010, the European Commission has pledged to provide €264 million to UNRWA's General Fund. This financial support, when combined with contributions from individual EU Member States, represents more than half of UNRWA's total budget in 2008. The funds will pay salaries for UNRWA's teachers, doctors and social workers, enabling UNRWA to maintain delivery of essential and other services to Palestine refugees.
For further information contact:
Alix de Mauny, European Commission Technical Assistance Office, 054-802-4915
Chris Gunness, UNRWA: 054-240-2659