UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday raised alarm over a $100 million shortfall in funding for the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees and called for urgent donations.
Ban said in a statement that the UNRWA relief agency was “a pillar of stability” for five million Palestinian refugees at a time when the Middle East is in the throes of crises and suffering.
He called “on all donors to urgently ensure that the $100 million required be contributed to UNRWA at the earliest possible date so that the children of Palestine can begin their 2015-2016 school year without delay.”
Ban has personally spoken to several world leaders in the past weeks about the unprecedented funding crisis at UNRWA, his spokesman said.
His comments were made after UNRWA warned in a report that unless funding is secured by mid-August, “the financial crisis may force the suspension of services relating to the Agency’s education program.”
“This would mean a delay in the school year for half a million students attending some 700 schools and 8 vocational training centers across the Middle East.”
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl expressed grave concern that potential cuts “could be necessary at a time of growing instability throughout the Middle East and when the role of UNRWA is increasingly significant.”
He added: “Nothing is more important for these children in terms of their dignity and identity than the education they receive. We are simply not allowed to let them down.”
The United Nations has been struggling to keep several humanitarian efforts afloat in the Middle East — in Syria, Yemen and also Iraq — where donors are under pressure to boost contributions.
The war in Syria, now in its fifth year, has driven more than four million people to flee across the border to neighboring countries, in what the UN refugee agency UNHCR has described as the single largest exodus in a generation.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have staged demonstrations in recent weeks to protest UNRWA’s reduction of services, and Hamas has accused the agency of “giving up its role” providing for refugees.
Around 80 percent of Gazans depend on foreign aid to meet their basic needs.
(Ma’an and agencies)