Khalil Mazraawi / AFP / Getty Images

UN: Schools for Palestinian refugees face funding crunch

Students in 700 UN-run schools in Middle East face four-month delay in starting the coming school year

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees is warning that unless it receives $101 million by mid-August it may be forced to delay the start of the school year for 500,000 students.

Workers for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) held a sit-in at the UNRWA headquarters in Amman on Wednesday to protest against a possible decision to suspend schools for Palestinian children across the region for four months.

The agency, which began its operations in 1950, provides assistance and protection for about five million registered Palestine refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

In a report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulated Tuesday, the agency said with stringent austerity it should just be able to protect the most vulnerable refugees from extreme hardship and maintain public health and safety until the end of the year.

But UNRWA said without additional fund it may be forced to close 700 schools and eight vocational training centers across the Middle East.

The report makes clear that “refugee communities, including UNRWA staff, are protesting these actions, and tensions are increasingly visible in the 58 camps, as UNRWA is forced to deal with the consequences of the lack of funding.” 

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said it was “of particular concern that such measures could be necessary at a time of growing instability throughout the Middle East and when the role of UNRWA is increasingly significant.” 

The agency said currently has enough money to maintain its services to protect public health — which includes immunizations for children, primary health care, relief and sanitation and some emergency programs — through to the end of 2015.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press


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