Fund crunch compounds Palestinian woes - GulfToday

Fund crunch compounds Palestinian woes

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World Food Programme is currently providing assistance to more than one million people in Gaza.

The United Nations has warned that its agencies providing food assistance to Gaza must raise tens of millions of dollars within weeks to avoid significant aid cuts and the matter is too serious to be ignored by the world community.

It should be noted that the World Food Programme and its agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, currently provide food assistance to more than one million people in Gaza.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, has made it very clear that the agencies are facing a serious funding crisis.

The catch is the money needs to be raised fast so as to be able to make a looming order for the food needed for the remainder of the year.

The situation is grave because if the WFP and UNRWA do not get around $40 million by the end of May or beginning of June, they will not be able to order the pipeline.

UNRWA faced an unprecedented financial crisis during 2018 that threatened the provision of essential services to millions of Palestine refugees, including more than 500,000 school students.

Although sufficient funds were provided to reopen classrooms in September, there are still no guarantees that 2019 will be any easier.

For students attending schools funded by UNRWA, uncertainty over the future has become a constant worry.

The agency’s 711 schools provide free basic education for Palestinian refugee children in the West Bank — including East Jerusalem — Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. But despite reopening after a long summer break, UNRWA was forced to take some difficult decisions, which had a direct impact on the students’ daily lives.

The agency is planning to host a donor’s conference next month and another one in September, as it struggles to fill the void after the withdrawal of support by Washington, traditionally its largest donor.

The only way forward is for new donors to step in with their contributions.

Apart from such huge economic challenges, Palestinian woes are multiplied by Israeli brutality on the ground. Though US President Donald Trump is expected to unveil his long-awaited plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace in the coming months, Palestinians and the rest of the peace-loving world have every reason to believe that the plan would be biased in favour of Israel.

This is especially so considering a series of actions taken by the Trump administration which has clearly been in favour of Israel and none in support of the Palestinian cause.

The halting of funds to the UNRWA, recognising occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, refusing to restrain Israel from illegally expanding settlements are just a few among such moves hostile to Palestinians.  

Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, rightly stated recently that the Palestinian people need the support of the international community more than ever, as a range of issues are exerting a heavy toll on those living in Gaza and West Bank.

These include ongoing violence, lack of progress towards peace, financial pressures and unilateral measures by the Government of Israel.

In Gaza, where unemployment stands at 54 per cent and is much higher for young people, people do not have the purchasing power to fill in the gaps, as McGoldrick points out. The situation certainly is “very, very serious.”