UNRWA offices in West Bank to close ‘indefinitely’
Palestinians take part in a protest outside a UN distribution center in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, against the reduction of educational programs given by UNRWA, August 4, 2015. (AFP/File)
The popular committees of the Palestinian refugee camps in the occupied West Bank have decided to escalate protests measures against the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in response to changes made by UNRWA to the food distribution system in the camps.
Spokesman for the committees, Husni Odeh, told Ma'an that the committees decided during a meeting Friday evening that they would close UNRWA social affairs offices and directors' offices in the West Bank, and block movement of UNRWA cars in all areas.
He added that these decisions will be implemented indefinitely as of Thursday.
Odeh said they informed Palestinian Authority officials and high-ranking UNRWA officials of these steps.
In April, the UN agency decided to halt its food distribution program in the camps and replace it with a cash card system, causing concern among UNRWA's Palestinian employees, who said the move jeopardized the jobs of 300 to 400 people who work at the organization's distribution centers.
Instead of the $111 year that had been provided to refugees in the form of a food basket, UNRWA's new program would provide $130 per year via cash card, in four cycles annually, to some 36,129 people, according to the UN agency.
The committees pledged to take similar steps against UNRWA's decision earlier this month, and shut down at least two UNRWA offices in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus on Monday to protest the UN agency.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma'an on Tuesday morning that the offices were "unjustifiably" closed.
Gunness added that the transition to the cash card system were "still ongoing with close follow up from the highest levels in both the PLO and PNA (Palestinian Authority)," adding that the camp committees were not against the new system's concept, but that current discussions were "mostly around the technical part and the implementation of the transition."
Odeh confirmed to Ma'an the protest measures were not taken against the decision itself, but that the committees were excluded from the decision-making process.
Close to 775,000 Palestinians are registered as refugees to the UN in the occupied West Bank. UNRWA provides services in 19 camps in the Palestinian territory.
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