Yesterday we had the privilege of speaking with Marc Lassouaoui, the Europe Acting Director and Senior Outreach Manager for Europe at the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Mr Lassouaoui held meetings with Members of the Scottish Parliament, civil society organisations and other partners to speak on the impact of a reduction in funding on the work of the UNRWA and, most significantly, on the lives of Palestinian refugees.
The UNRWA is the largest UN agency with approximately 30,000 employees and acts as a public service provider for Palestinian refugees, giving them access to health, education and food aid. Refugees based in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are hardest hit with 94% of Palestinian people in Lebanon living in poverty and extreme hardship. Although the West Bank is said to be better off than other areas experiencing an influx of Palestinian refugees, there remain significant issues that need to be addressed.
The need for such an agency is therefore critical especially with an increasing number of those entitled to such support now reaching 7m people. By providing refugees with much needed aid, UNRWA aims to bring stability to the region.
However, the agency is experiencing extensive financial problems. Although funds are made available through individual donations by Member States such as Germany and the USA, who provide regular and reliable financial support, shifting priorities have led to decreasing numbers of donations from others. For example, in 2019 the UK donated £15 million in contrast to the previous £70 million. This shortfall in funding has meant that those on the ground providing aid such as teachers and medical staff may not receive their pay at the end of the month.
Following on from our conversation with Marc, UN House Scotland hopes to build on this meeting with an event to be held in the New Year to raise awareness of these issues and to bring these important points to the forefront of discussions.
Please keep an eye out for further updates regarding this.