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As UNRWA launches emergency appeal, Canada reduces funding

Jan. 21, 2010 4:56 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2010 10:58 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) launched a campaign seeking 73 million US dollars in support of West Bank programs, and an additional 249 million for programs in Gaza.

The appeal was launched Monday, as announcements came in from Canada that the government would be diverting its aid money away from the refugee agency's general fund, and instead pouring a limited budget into the construction of courthouses.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma'an on Thursday that while Canada was still donating 11 million to the emergency fund, the country's contribution had gone down overall. "We hope Canada sees the sense of continuing donations to the general fund," Gunness said, noting the fund's focus on the provision of health, education and prosperity projects.

"Instead of providing untagged core funding, we're just providing the same amount of money but it's directed towards food aid," a spokesman for Canadian Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda told the country's Embassy publication last week.

UNRWA functions entirely on donations from organizations and governments. During the launch of its appeal, potential donors were updated on the humanitarian situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, which, according to the agency, "remained characterized by unemployment, food insecurity and socio-economic decline" throughout 2009.

In the West Bank, experts explained that Palestinians deal with the "fragmentation of land, geographical restrictions on freedom of movement and limited access to employment and public services." All these factors "are redoubled by the problem of economic and social marginalization," the agency said.

In 2010, the appeal states, UNRWA hopes to address needs like the psychological impact of violence, investigate and alleviate the "closure regime and difficult living conditions" of Palestinian refugees and to provide "mobile services for isolated communities in the West Bank that are at risk of displacement."

So far Canada is the only donor country to UNRWA that has reduced its funds, and the agency says it still hopes to reach the targets set in the emergency appeal.
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