By Lisa Schlein
Geneva (RPRN)8/18/2009 –Palestinian workers distribute food in a UN Relief and Works Agency, (UNRWA) warehouse in the Shati refugee camp, in Gaza City, Tuesday, 18 Aug. 2009
Palestinian workers distribute food in a UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) warehouse in the Shati refugee camp, in Gaza City, Tuesday, 18 Aug. 2009
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, is launching a Gaza Ramadan Appeal for $181 million to provide food, jobs and other assistance for one million Palestinian refugees. Seven months after the Israeli Operation in Gaza, UNRWA says very little has been done to revive the livelihoods of the refugees and to rebuild the homes and other facilities that were destroyed or damaged.
UNRWA says launching the appeal for Gaza on the eve of Ramadan is mainly aimed at getting the attention of Arab donors to the continuing needs and harsh conditions under which one million Palestinian refugees are living.
The agency appealed for $345 million after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ended in Gaza early this year. Only 52 percent of the appeal is covered.
UNRWA spokeswoman, Elena Mancusi Materi, says most of that money came from traditional Western donors, except for one generous contribution from an Arab country.
“We received $34 million from Kuwait. Then we received $400,000 from Qatar,” Materi said. “We received, I think, $100,000 from Saudi Arabia â€¦ But, it is nothing major apart from the very big and generous Kuwaiti donations for Gaza.”
Materi urges Arab countries to give generously to provide UNRWA with the $181 million it needs to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian refugees in Gaza until the end of the year.
“We are approaching the start of the school year,” Materi said. “We have 8,000 new pupils who have applied to enter UNRWA schools for this new school year in Gaza. Without funds to recruit extra staff, we will be forced to enroll students into classes, which are already extremely overcrowded. And, this will obviously have an impact on the efforts we have been undertaking to stop the decline in academic achievement of Gaza refugee pupils.”
Materi says more than 30 schools were hit during the Israeli-Palestinian war. She says none can be rebuilt or repaired because Israel will not allow construction material to enter Gaza.
Because reconstruction has not been possible until now, she says many people remain without adequate shelter. And, UNRWA, she says will use some of the money from the appeal to help poor people repair their homes.
“We aim to deliver packages of food every two months to families comprising 650,000 refugees,” Materi said. “So, this is more than half the Gaza refugee population, which should be benefiting according to needs assessment â€¦ Cash is also needed to cover basic needs of the families living in most destitute poverty, purchasing food and other essential items.”
Other priority needs, she says, include mental health counseling for children and their families, job creation opportunities and upgrading of health facilities.