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Sustaining a lifeline

Jun 24,2020 - Last updated at Jun 24,2020

In an effort to shore up the much-needed support to sustain the vital humanitarian services of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is reeling under a crippling shortage in funding, Jordan and Sweden on Tuesday hosted an extraordinary virtual pledging conference.

The meeting, held against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, brought together 75 governments and non-governmental organisations and secured around $130 million in financial commitments.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ remarks during the meeting ring true for the region: "The agency is not only a lifeline for millions of Palestine refugees, but also critical for regional stability."

UNRWA, which provides healthcare, education, emergency assistance and life-saving services to more than 5.6 million Palestine refugees in the region, is facing a funding gap of $400 million for 2020, according to Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini.

Supporting UNRWA and guaranteeing its welfare to persist in serving millions of vulnerable refugees has always been at the forefront of Jordan’s diplomatic efforts.

“This is a time for action. Supporting UNRWA is a necessary action. The agency has done all it could to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in its operations. We must stand by it,” Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said.

Jordan, one of the largest hosts of Palestinian refugees in the world, has been on the vanguard of championing the refugee cause and thwarting attempts by Israel to stamp out UNRWA. 

In December 2019, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to renew the mandate of the Palestine refugee agency, a testament to its seven-decade legacy.

In the absence of a peace deal, UNRWA has been providing needed services and safeguarding Palestinian refugees’ rights. 

Needless to say, drying up UNRWA’s resources will put millions of refugees' lives in jeopardy and create a recipe for hopelessness and a breeding ground for the radicalisation of youth.

Amid the pandemic, when the whole world is staggering under economic hardships, it is heartening to see the commitment of the international community to safeguarding this vital lifeline for refugees.

While the committed support is welcome news, much more is needed to close the funding gap.

Preserving the dignity of Palestine refugees and safeguarding their rights are noble duties that the world community must not shirk, especially in the midst of pandemic-induced uncertainty and persisting Israeli threats. 


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