Guterres says UNWRA crisis unprecedented, $446 mn deficit

UN secretary calls on donors for Palestinian refugees

15 March, 19:54

    ROME - UNWRA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, needs ''446 million dollars for 2018'' in an unprecedented financial crisis in its history, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres denounced on Thursday. Primary services like education, healthcare and food could be reduced or even cut off completely for about 1.7 million Palestinian refugees, he said, opening an UNRWA donors' conference in Rome at FAO.
    ''Today I ask you to bridge the agency's shortfall for 2018 with predictable, sustained and additional funding. I also appeal to you to increase support in the years ahead to ensure schooling, health care and food assistance'', he said. ''Such spending is an investment with wide-ranging dividends - in the human development of the Palestinian people, in stability today and in a peaceful future in and beyond Palestine. It can also address some of the despair and other factors that lead to radicalization''.
    ''I appeal to all donors - each government and organization in this room today - to step forward and give UNRWA what you can. Truly, what you can. ''If each of you does that, we will be able to address UNRWA's shortfall. More importantly, we will send a strong message to Palestine refugees that we are committed to their rights, their well-being, and meeting their daily needs.
    To those who may question the expense, let me echo UNRWA's fundraising campaign: Dignity is priceless. As a matter of human solidarity, and as a matter of smart steps for peace, let us give UNRWA our full and generous support'', Guterres told participants.
    Over 70 delegations attended the conference. Participants included Palestinian Premier Rami Hamdallah - who escaped an attack in Gaza two days ago - the foreign minister of Italy, Angelino Alfano, Lebanon, Gebran Bassil, France, Jean-Yves Le Drian and EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. The secretary general of the Arab League, Ahmed Abul-Gheit and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation attended. For Gulf countries, the deputy foreign ministers of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were also at the conference. 

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