UNRWA launches annual appeal of $816M to support Palestinians
A Palestinian worker removes debris from buildings which were destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the summer of 2014, in Gaza City, on January 14, 2016. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
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The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Thursday launched its annual appeal of $817 million of emergency funds for Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory.
Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA's commissioner-general, said in a statement the funds would contribute to both "a measure of stability at a time of spreading radicalization and a measure of dignity for a community that has been deprived of a just solution for far too long."
The agency said that 95 percent of the estimated 450,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria were now reliant on the agency for humanitarian assistance, the majority of whom were displaced, while thousands more remained trapped in areas of active conflict.
"Tens of thousands have fled to Lebanon and Jordan where, despite the generosity of host countries, they face increasing marginalization and despair," the agency said.
In the occupied Palestinian territory, UNRWA said that Palestinian refugees were "exposed to the lasting consequences of an occupation now approaching 50 years and a decade-long blockade, which define every aspect of their lives."
It said that 830,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip now depend on humanitarian assistance, up from 80,000 in 2000.
The statement said that in the occupied Palestinian territory, the funds would be focused on the needs of refugees "exposed to displacement and home demolitions, as well as on reconstruction efforts in Gaza."
In Syria, meanwhile, UNRWA aims to "run one of the largest cash assistance programs in an active conflict zone," as well as to provide "innovative education programs benefiting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Syrian children."
Last year, UNRWA faced a severe financial crisis that at one point threatened to delay the school year in UNRWA's schools across the Middle East, used by half a million Palestinian refugees.
The UN agency was only able to announce that the year would go ahead as scheduled after a last minute scramble for funding secured just short of $80 million in contributions against its deficit.