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UN agency seeks urgent support for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

  • January 19, 2022

The United Nations is seeking $87.5 million from the international community to reach Palestinian refugees living in impoverished Lebanon. 

The UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, provides food, cash assistance and other basic services to an estimated 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Palestinian territories as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.  

In Lebanon, more than 479,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants are registered with UNRWA, just under half of whom live in the country’s 12 refugee camps. The decade-long war in neighboring Syria has also forced some 27,000 Palestinian refugees to flee Syria for Lebanon. 

UNRWA’s latest appeal aims to “to ensure that thousands of Palestine refugees families live in dignity and that Palestinian children don’t lose their future,” Lebanon’s UN humanitarian coordinator, Najat Rochdi, said in a press briefing on Wednesday. 

Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic and financial crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. The Lebanese currency has lost roughly 90% of its value since 2019, plunging millions into poverty and triggering shortages of food, fuel and other essentials.  

In a UNRWA survey conducted in July, 58% of Palestinian refugees said they had been forced to cut their number of daily meals. The survey also found the poverty rate among Palestinian refugees had reached 73% amid Lebanon’s financial meltdown. 

On Tuesday, the cash-strapped UN agency for Palestinian refugees announced it needs a total of $1.6 billion to continue its lifesaving work across the region this year. 

“The international community must give UNRWA sufficient and predictable funding so we may continue to provide Palestine refugees with a sense of security and normality they deserve,” Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s commissioner-general, said in a statement.  

In April, the Biden administration announced it would provide $150 million to support UNRWA, a partial restoration of the funding slashed by President Donald Trump in 2018. In late December, the administration announced an additional $99 million in funding for the agency. 

The loss of US support under Trump plunged UNRWA into its worst financial crisis in the organization’s 70-year history and forced cutbacks on critical programs such as health care and schooling.

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