The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has made the decision to reduce its services to Palestinian refugees in the areas where it maintains projects: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.
The talk regarding cuts to UNRWA services comes as a result of the organization’s budget deficit, and has prompted the agency to freeze recruitment in the health and education sectors, according to UNRWA spokesperson Sami Mshasha.
The freeze will negatively reflect on the functioning of the education process at a time when the agency’s schools experience overcrowding by students in Jordan, where about 120,000 students are refugees, according to Mshasha.
The decision will have an impact on the health sector, resulting in a lack of medical staff for the number of patients and the sick.
Mshasha added that the fiscal deficit, which this year the UNRWA witnessed exceed its limits for the first time, reaching 100 million dollars, means that the agency will not be able to fulfill the basic obligations of health and education services and refugee relief.
UNRWA will be unable to meet its obligations to approximately 30,000 of its employees by the beginning of October, according to Mshasha.
Mshasha said that the agency has appealed to donor countries in order to raise the value of support provided to them. The UNRWA needs to raise additional support, equivalent to about 8% of the value of the budget.
Arab donor countries combined offered a value of only 1-2% of the budget, according to Mshasha.
Mshasha confirmed that the position of the UNRWA on the matter is that it is very difficult but necessary to take austerity measures.
At the same time, Mshasha affirmed that all of the services provided to refugees will be subject to scruitiny so that the cuts do not affect the basic services provided to the refugees, although they will affect the quality of those services.
Keeping up with the number of new refugees requires 5% of the budget, according to Mshasha.
However, while the UNRWA announced its budget deficit and its intention to reduce services, The Supreme National Committee for the Protection of the Right of Return in Jordan, called for standing against this movement in all forms by issuing a directive revealing the position of refugees under the ongoing UNRWA, spread across 24 countries today, according to the advisory committee secretary Talaat Abu Hashia.
Abu Hashia and the committee stand in firm opposition to any move or action that could affect the interests of refugees or reduce their capacities, and there will be sequential measures, beginning with strikes and sit-ins, gradually increasing, and including follow-up notes in order to raise this matter.
Abu Hashia said that there is a real movement in the UNRWA management and in some donor countries to reduce the agency’s services and gradually phase them out. He issued a call to stand against this movement at all levels and invited donor countries to support the agency.
Mshasha stressed that the agency is not seeking to reduce services or affect them in terms of quality and efficiency, and will carefully examine these measures as they are implemented.
Under the UNRWA decision to remain in existence until the refugees return to their homeland, the international community is committed to providing the necessary funds to service the UNRWA cause.
The UNRWA expresses the international community’s commitment to the human development of Palestinian refugees, helping them to acquire knowledge and skill sets. The agency has one of the largest school systems in the Middle East and teaches half a million children in more than 700 schools. UNRWA has been the main provider of basic education to Palestinian refugees for 60 years.
The UNRWA is committed to ensuring the conditions necessary to live a long and healthy life for the refugees through the provision of basic health services, provided through a network of primary health care and mobile clinics, the acquisition of the knowledge and skills necessary to achieving decent facilities and standards of living, in addition to enabling human rights. The UNRWA provides social protection services, focussing on the poorest, and the provision of basic food supplies and cash subsidies to refugees, as well as emergency cash grants and adequate housing for the most vulnerable refugees.
The Supreme National Committee raised a memorandum to the Commissioner General of the Agency on Sunday, June 14, confirming its decision to reject the proposed cuts in education, health and social services.
As announced, 7,000 employees of the UNRWA ceased working for one hour on Monday, June 15, in protest against the UNRWA management’s decision to reduce the services provided to the refugees.
The director of the UNRWA operations in Jordan, Roger Davies said during a meeting of the parliamentary Committee on Palestine on Thursday, June 11, that the UNRWA needs annual funding of about 600 million dollars to cover the services offered in the region, and he pointed to the deficit which the agency estimates to be about 100 million dollars.
The number of registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan is 1.1 million refugees.
*The Arabic of this article appeared on June 15, 2015.
Translated by Julia Norris