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UNRWA to cut 85 percent of international short-term staff

June 29, 2015 4:28 P.M. (Updated: June 30, 2015 11:58 A.M.)
Palestinian refugees queue to receive food in the war-torn Yarmouk refugee camp in February 2015. (AFP/ Rami al-Sayed)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The UN agency for Palestinian refugees announced Monday that it will cut 85 percent of its international staff on short term contracts in coming months in light of a $100 million deficit.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement that the agency "is taking this measure to reduce costs as much as possible without reducing services to refugees."

However, he added that UNRWA may have to make "difficult decisions" on its school system for half a million Palestinian children across the Middle East "if the deficit is not filled."

He said that 85 percent of the 137 internationals would be lost "in a phased process which will last until the end of September."

The first 35 percent will see their contracts end in the coming four weeks, while "another 50 percent will end by 30 September without further extension or renewal."

Gunness said: "With stringent austerity measures already in place beyond today’s announcement, the agency should be able to continue with life-saving services to the end of the year."

"These include our health programs, relief and social services, sanitation and emergency projects for which we have funds."

He said that the agency's school system in Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria is "essential but some difficult decisions may be needed in coming weeks if the deficit is not filled."

UNRWA, which provides assistance and protection to around 5 million Palestine refugees, is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.

In recent months, however, the agency had struggled to secure donor funding, particularly given "an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees and deepening poverty."

The $100 million deficit this year has opened up in UNRWA's central fund, which supports its essential services and most of its staffing costs.

However, UNRWA emergency programs and key projects, which operate on separate funding portals, have also been running high deficits.

In February, the agency announced that a lack of funding had forced them to stop an emergency cash assistance program for tens of thousands of Gazans seeking to repair damaged and destroyed homes.

UNRWA reported that only $216 million had been pledged for its emergency shelter program, leaving "a current shortfall of $504 million."

The agency was established in 1949 and assists Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Comments
Lord Lucan / Lesotho
Cut 85% of the aid too. Make these Arabs work, produce, contribute to mankind and pay taxes.
29/06/2015 18:24
Legal Eagle / Australia
Perhaps Abbas and the PA members could reach into their very deep pockets overflowing with European cash, and the bank accounts of their sons - that would probably pretty well cover the costs of the schools in the OPT.
29/06/2015 19:10
Arnold / Canada
Is the gravy train running out od steam?
30/06/2015 00:14
Outlier / USA
Palestinians have derided UNRWA for years, while acting entitled to its help.Time for UNRWA to close and Palestinians to create their own futures.
30/06/2015 00:54
who cares now that QATAR invites / 20,000
Palestinians to work there?!
30/06/2015 13:16
Truth / USA
I second what Lord Lucan wrote
30/06/2015 14:22
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