“UNRWA is moving ahead on the assumption that we are here to stay and we will continue to improve our services regardless of the financial crisis,” UNRWA's director of operations in Jordan, Roger Davies, said on Monday, stressing that “Jordan is now home to a total of 2.3 million Palestinian refugees and we have to keep on providing them with the services they need because it is their right”.
His remarks came during a media briefing held at the UNRWA’s field office in Amman, where the official outlined the agency’s plans for the rest of the year following the turmoil of the past few months.
New operations are expected to begin on June 12 at Zarqa refugee camp, where four schools are set to be rehabilitated and upgraded with the funding provided by the Saudi Fund for Development.
A brand new clinic will also be built in Zarqa within the next two years, while the two existing health centres in the area will be merged together in order to provide “faster and better services”.
“The areas of Irbid and Jerash are currently suffering from continuous power cuts, which is especially critical considering that the clinics have fully turned into the electronic health system,” Davies continued, explaining that “in order to fix this situation, UNRWA is planning to install solar panels aimed at generating backup electricity to keep the system running during the power cuts”.
Regarding UNRWA’s financial situation, Davies noted that the agency has been able to raise $210 million since the beginning of the crisis: a total of $100 million were pledged at the extraordinary ministerial meeting to mobilise support for Palestine refugees co-chaired by Jordan, Egypt and Sweden while a subsequent meeting in Saudi Arabia resulted in a $50 million pledge by the host country and another $50 million from the UAE. A recent $10 million donation was further announced by Turkey.
“We started this year with a total deficit of $446 million in regular programmes and emergency appeals, and we still have to raise over $200 million by the end of the year,” Davies stressed, noting that UNRWA is currently trying to expand its donor base and setting its hopes into new territories and sources of funding to prepare for the start of the new school year in September.
The official highlighted the launching of the “Dignity is Priceless” campaign, pointing out that “this is the first campaign in the history of the agency that targets individuals and organisations across the world rather than voluntary contributions from countries”.
UNRWA’s financial situation will be discussed along with other topics at the next regular meeting of the agency’s advisory commission, which is set to be held at the Dead Sea on June 18-19.
Concerning the recent protests staged by the agency’s staff, Davies clarified that “the salaries and benefits given to workers across all countries where UNRWA operates are set in comparison with the government's standards and this has been explained to all workers. The only condition requiring a salary survey would be a fundamental change in the government’s structure, and that did not happen up to this point”.
On the complaints over the increase in health insurance premiums for local employees, the official noted that the agency counts with a supervising board formed by members of the company providing the health service, the staff union and the administration, explaining that “the board is responsible for the discussion of the demands and their further application if feasible”.
Commenting on the staff’s criticism over the lack of replacements for the vacant positions, Davies assured that the agency has agreed to increase the number of daily paid workers since the beginning of Ramadan, noting that the administration will continue to do this in order to ease the pressure on the staff.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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