The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is urgently seeking US$ 93.4 million for its response to COVID-19 in the areas of health care, sanitation and hygiene and education over the next three months. The required amount is an update from the Agency's earlier appeal, with a large portion of the funding aimed at covering cash and food assistance to this particularly vulnerable population, as the socio-economic consequences of the public health crisis continue to weigh heavily on households.
Since the start of the crisis, the Agency has worked diligently to deliver essential, lifesaving services to Palestine refugees throughout the Middle East. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been distributed to thousands of front line health staff, triage systems have been introduced in all health centres to screen patients with respiratory symptoms and minimize contact with other patients, non-critical health services have been suspended and telemedicine and door-to-door delivery of medicine and food were introduced to reduce foot traffic at health clinics and food distribution centres.
In order to ensure the continuity of education to over 530,000 students enrolled in UNRWA schools and 8,270 young people in vocational centres, the Agency Education in Emergencies (EiE) approach, developed in response to conflicts in Syria and Gaza, has been adjusted to the COVID-19 crisis and implemented. To avoid any additional public health hazard, sanitation works and solid waste collection have continued in all camps, and protective measures for sanitation workers have increased. The Agency is continuing its vital food and cash assistance programs for the most vulnerable.
"We have seen how the crisis is disproportionally hitting the poorest and most destitute communities around the world. This is sadly also true for Palestine refugees who are amongst the most vulnerable populations in the Middle East," said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. "Most refugees UNRWA serves live under the poverty line and lack the safety net needed to absorb the financial and medical shocks created by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now facing devastating consequences to their physical, social and economic wellbeing."
The UNRWA emergency appeal will work to prevent a disastrous situation that could leave thousands of lives in the balance and will protect against the most severe impacts of the pandemic by providing basic needs such as food, water and lifesaving health care and preventing against further deterioration to refugees' health and socio-economic safety.
"As long as the global crisis persists, UNRWA will continue to adapt the way it works so that it responds to the needs and expectations of Palestine refugees. I count on the solidarity of the international community to help us ensure Palestine refugees remain safe and able to weather the economic storm that could push this vulnerable community to the brink of disaster. This could trigger more instability in an already volatile region," said Lazzarini.
Read the full Updated UNRWA Flash Appeal for the COVID-19 response here.
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.
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