The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), has donated US$ 89.5 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). On 30 June, two agreements, to support UNRWA projects in the West Bank and Gaza, were signed in Riyadh by SFD Vice-Chairman and Managing Director HE Eng. Yousef Al Bassam and UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl.
“The relationship between the UNRWA and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to grow in strength and quality”, said the Commissioner-General. He continued: “Our partnership has delivered innumerable benefits for Palestine refugees. UNRWA as an agency consistently delivers these improvements to the highest of standards, in often extremely difficult circumstances. Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Fund for Development, recognizes this, and together we will continue to improve the conditions and support the dignity of Palestine refugees.”
The first agreement will support the construction of new schools and health centres in the Gaza Strip, to relieve the burden on existing UNRWA facilities in the blockaded enclave. One of the centerpieces of the cooperation will be the construction of an auditorium and a faculty of art and human sciences for Gaza’s Al-Azhar University. Two hundred shelters will be reconstructed, along with the undertaking of other environmental-infrastructure projects.
In the West Bank, the second agreement will enable UNRWA to reconstruct two of its health centres. In addition, the Agency will be able to continue work on its Kalandia and Ramallah training centres, which provide young Palestine refugee men and women with skills and training needed by the labour market.
In both Gaza and the West Bank, UNRWA has provided health care and education services to Palestine refugees for over six decades. Such services remain of vital importance as Palestine refugees confront enduring and diverse challenges, including movement and access restrictions that impact the ability of Palestine refugees to access schools and doctors. The support received from Saudi Arabia makes a vital contribution to the Agency’s efforts to ensure access to these services.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 69 million.