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European donation bails out Palestinian refugees

$76 million European donation bails out UN agency helping Palestinian refugees

A $76-million European Union donation to the main United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees will allow it to continue working after the end of the month following warnings that a suspension of donor funding resulting from the militant Hamas victory in Palestinian elections could bring its work to a halt.

“We are grateful for the (European) Commission’s timely contribution to UNRWA’s 2006 regular budget. It will enable UNRWA to continue to deliver critically needed humanitarian services to Palestine refugees without interruption,” the Commissioner-General of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Karen Koning AbuZayd said yesterday.

Facing “dramatically” new circumstances after the Hamas victory, Ms. AbuZayd had warned on Monday that UNRWA’s operations would grind to a halt by the end of the month.

“In the absence of remittances from those donors whose financial calendar normally enables them to transfer their contribution to us in January, UNRWA’s cash flow will allow for continuation of its operations only through March,” she told a meeting of the body’s Advisory Commission of major donors which ended in Amman, Jordan, yesterday.

Established in 1949 after the first Israeli-Arab war, UNRWA is by far the largest UN operation in the Middle East, with over 25,000 staff, almost all of them refugees themselves, working directly to benefit their communities as teachers, doctors, nurses or social workers, providing basic services to over 4.1 million registered Palestine refugees.

The “momentous political developments” stemming from January’s election victory by Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, have created a great deal of uncertainty about the future, Ms. AbuZayd told the meeting, the first session of the expanded Advisory Commission.

Established under the same General Assembly resolution that set up UNRWA itself, the Commission was enlarged in November to include 11 more countries whose contributions to the Agency have exceeded an annual average of $5 million over the past three years.

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