Head of UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees makes urgent plea for funds

   Palestine, Economics, 12/7/2000

 
   The head of the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees issued on
   Wednesday an urgent appeal for operating funds to cope with
   deteriorating social and economic conditions in the occupied
   territories.
   "We are dealing with very large numbers of people who have been
   disabled," said Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of the UN
   Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East
   (UNRWA). "We are dealing with a great deal of destruction to the
   infrastructure in the area, and at the same time we are facing the
   question of how can we go on with an organization that is responsible
   for the welfare and education of the 3.8 million refugees in the area
   when we don't even know how we are going to make it through this
   year."
   Speaking to reporters at a press briefing in New York, Hansen said he
   had recently appealed to donors for full funding of UNRWA's "very
   modest and meager budget" of $311 million for next year. "We received
   pledges worth $38 million, which means we have a very long way to go,"
   the Commissioner-General pointed out.
   On the positive side, Hansen reported that the Agency's appeal for
   $39.8 million in emergency funding to deal with the latest crisis had
   largely been met, demonstrating donor readiness to respond to breaking
   developments. "As usual, it has turned out to be easier to finance
   short-term emergencies than it is to finance the basic work that we
   have been mandated by the international community to do," he observed.
   He also noted that the refugee population was increasing by 5 per cent
   every year, and stressed that resources must keep pace with growing
   demands.
   On the current conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, Hansen said the
   Palestinians there were in "very bad shape" because their freedom of
   movement had been completely limited. "Many people have been deprived
   of their work opportunities in Israel or elsewhere within the
   territories, and basically whatever meager savings people had has now
   run out," he said.