Switzerland and UNRWA to host major conference on assistance to Palestine refugees
The Swiss Government and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) are to host a conference in Geneva in June to discuss the future of humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees.
More than five decades after they first lost their homes, millions of Palestine refugees continue to live lives of hardship and poverty across the Middle East. Now, for the first time in 54 years, an estimated 65-70 countries and inter-governmental organizations will gather together to plan humanitarian and human development strategies for the 4.1 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA.
The conference will discuss these issues without prejudice to the refugees’ status or to any future political agreement, reported a press release. UNRWA’s 24,000 staff, almost all of them refugees themselves, provide education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid to over four million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.
In advance of the conference, four thematic groups have been established under the leadership of individual countries and major international organizations to propose future initiatives. These groups cover: Palestine refugee children; housing, infrastructure and the environment in Palestine refugee camps; refugee participation in regional economic development and the management and mobilization of resources on behalf of the refugees.
UNRWA, whose regular cash and in-kind budget for 2004 is set at $350 million, is funded by voluntary contributions and has for years suffered from a shortfall in its finances. This has led to deteriorating infrastructure and slipping standards of shelter, healthcare and education for the refugees.
The aim of the Geneva conference is to have the international donor community play a part in planning for the future humanitarian development of the refugees and in so doing, commit themselves to the future funding of those plans. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)