UNRWA has announced that starting on 1 April 2013, more than 10,000 of the poorest refugee families from UNRWA’s Social Safety Net Programme will receive priority placement in the Job Creation Programme (JCP), securing at least three months of employment and income during a 24-month period. This new system replaces the practice of providing direct cash assistance on the basis of $10 US per person per three-month period, which UNRWA regretfully must cancel due to funding constraints.
“Through this new system, an average six-member family will have the opportunity to nearly double their income over two years, as compared to the old cash assistance scheme”, says Robert Turner, Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza. “Additionally, such a family will actually have the dignity of being able to secure an income through their own labour and no longer be the recipient of aid handouts.” Under the current system, in a 24 month period, a six-member family receives $480 US in cash assistance. The same family will now be able to secure an income of up to $900 US during the same period through the Job Creation Programme. “These are the kinds of difficult decisions we are forced to make in UNRWA, due to the nature of our funding situation – not necessarily because of an overall lack of funding – but rather due to funding being available for some programmes and not for others” says Mr. Turner.
“For example, while we no longer have the funds to maintain the cash distribution system, we have been able to dramatically expand our JCP programme – from 3,000 to 8,000 positions, and so can use those resources to mitigate the effects of the reduction in cash distribution; it is about using what resources we have to best continue support to the refugees, particularly the poorest amongst them. We of course are also continuing our large-scale construction programme which creates about 5,000 jobs in Gaza.” UNRWA wants to assure refugees that the important food distribution programme continues unchanged, with an increasing number of refugees - currently over 800,000 – receiving this vital assistance.
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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, and microfinance.
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 (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 67.2 million.
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