(Photo credit: The Cradle)
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced on 17 January that the agency is facing a crippling financial deficit as the result of a significant lack in donations and funding.
The coordinator of the Joint Refugee Committee, Mahmoud Khalaf, told Russian media that the current year is “the most difficult for UNRWA in terms of the financial crisis it faces,” and that it came into 2023 with a deficit of $80 million, representing the “largest in decades.”
“The financial deficit comes in light of a real crisis and the reluctance of many countries to make pledges to UNRWA … [representing] serious repercussions on services to Palestinian refugees, especially health and education,” he added.
According to Khalaf, UNRWA is launching an “emergency appeal” on 24 January in order to secure a minimum of $400 million to cover food and health costs, so that the agency can commence with its plans for the current year.
Over the past few years, this significant drop in funding for UNRWA has already begun taking its toll on Palestinian refugees in terms of social and economic pressures.
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump severed all US funding for the agency, coinciding with the ‘deal of the century,’ the Trump administration’s so-called ‘peace plan.’
Washington has recently resumed funding to UNRWA minimally, however, a Palestinian source recently confirmed to The Cradle that its services have declined significantly in education and health. He added that the only reason the agency still exists is that certain countries are too “ashamed” to straight-out end support, and that the “means for its cancellation are not yet available.”
This strongly reinforces the words of UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, who said in April last year that the agency was in “the danger zone.”
“There will come a time when we will not be able to fulfill our mandate,” he said at the time.
Another high-ranking Palestinian source informed on the matter told The Cradle that every time there is talk of ceasing UNRWA’s funding, it coincides with proposals for the permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in the camps of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, as was the case in 2020 when the Abraham Accords were signed.
This attempt to persuade Palestinians to give up their right of return “did not pass then and will not pass now,” the source said.
Another source affiliated with UNRWA told The Cradle that there is a staggering amount of political pressure being exerted on countries to vote against the extension of UNRWA’s mandate in the next UN General Assembly.
This is highly indicative of an international effort to put the refugee issue to bed and make way for all-around Arab normalization without Israel needing to make any concessions.