Despite the devastating economic crisis of UNRWA, its advisory commission visits Lebanon

The Advisory Commission (AdCom) of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) held a crucial meeting in Lebanon this week amid deep concern over its situation miserable financial.

This movement comes as Lebanon is in the grip of the worst financial crisis in living memory, 86% of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon would live below the poverty line.

During the meeting, the commission discussed the need to raise funds to cover services for Palestinian refugees for the remainder of 2022.

They also stressed the need for a mechanism that would facilitate priority assistance needs such as health, education and social protection.

According to a statement released by UNRWA, the meeting focused on UNRWA’s ability to continue to fulfill its mandate in the face of financial and political challenges.

With the impact of the Ukraine crisis on funding in the backdrop, AdCom members also discussed efforts to innovate and sustain funding modalities to enable refugees’ continued access to essential services such as as health, education and social protection.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said during his visit to the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon: “Holding this AdCom session in Lebanon is indicative of the attention that UNRWA wishes to attract on the situation of the approximately 210,000 Palestinian refugees living here”.

“The stories we hear are heartbreaking. More than 80% of Palestinian refugee infants do not receive the nutritional requirements necessary for healthy growth. It is one of many shocking indicators of the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, where almost everyone is now suffering from the impact of the acute economic crisis that has hit the country.

He added: “At this time, between what we have already received from donors and based on the best available information, we anticipate a funding shortfall of approximately $100 million. Chronic underfunding eventually exhausted our ability to cope.

The AdCom team witnessed first-hand the enormous needs of Palestinian refugees and the Agency’s work in Burj Barajneh camp, Beirut, during pre-meeting field visits. Together with UNRWA’s Director of Affairs in Lebanon, Mr. Claudio Cordone, the delegation met with members of the community, who shared their experiences with deaths resulting from exposed live electricity and water pipes and open sewers, according to the release.

In addition, they highlighted the difficulty they face in feeding their families due to the rising cost of living and hospitalization costs amid economic crisis, increasing poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, child labor and divorce cases.

The AdCom delegation also heard stories about the resilience, hopes and aspirations of Palestinian refugees and how UNRWA’s health, education and shelter repair services, among others, were sometimes the only support they received. Delegates visited an UNRWA health centre, the Women’s Program Association and shelters in need of rehabilitation, as well as those that had been rebuilt with UNRWA support.

The UNRWA delegation was also briefed on the UNRWA archives project to digitize the registration records of Palestinian refugees and the progress of the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared camp following a conflict. who destroyed it in 2007.

Members of the Advisory Commission visited the Ein El Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon where they met with representatives of the Palestinian refugee community, teachers and students who gave first-hand accounts of the impact of the country-wide economic crisis on their ability to access food, education, employment and health care. Discussions also focused on access to rights, the restrictions of which greatly reduce the future prospects of refugees.

Also in this regard, the delegation paid a visit to the new Al Sakhra School in Mieh Mieh and the Vocational Training Center in Siblin, where students shared their aspirations and concerns about their ability to achieve them.

The Advisory Commission is responsible for advising and assisting the Commissioner-General of UNRWA in the execution of the mandate of the Office and in the execution of the programs of UNRWA. It meets twice a year, usually in June and November.

It should be mentioned that UNRWA, which assists Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, is facing an increased demand for services resulting from an increase in the number of registered Palestinian refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their growing poverty. The UN agency is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been exceeded by growing needs.

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