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Urgent Funds Needed For Uprooted Palestinians

UN agency seeks urgent funds to aid Palestinians uprooted from Lebanese camp

31 October 2008 – The United Nations agency tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees today called on donors to urgently respond to the $43 million appeal it issued last month for funds to help some 27,000 people displaced from a Lebanese refugee camp last year.

Ever since the Nahr el-Bared camp was destroyed last summer amid fighting between the Lebanese Government forces and Fatah el-Islam gunmen, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been providing rental subsidies and food to those who lost their homes.

Last month the agency appealed for $43 million to enable it to take care of some 27,000 displaced refugees, their rent and food for the next 15 months until they can begin moving back into the camp, which will be rebuilt.

According to UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, only the United States and Norway have so far pledged funds, some $4.3 million and $500,000, respectively.

“These pledges will take us just to the end of the year. And then we will be in quite desperate straits to be able to feed and shelter the people, beginning in 2009,” Karen AbuZayd told a news conference in New York.

In addition, UNRWA and the Lebanese Government appealed in June for $445 million for rebuilding Nahr el Bared, the largest project in the agency’s nearly 60-year history.

Ms. AbuZayd noted that the Arab countries have indicated that they are willing to pay for half of the $445 million reconstruction project, but they have not yet come up with their pledges.

Funding is a serious concern for UNRWA, especially at this time in light of the global financial crisis, she said, but added that helping the world’s poorest, which includes refugees, should continue to be a priority for countries.

Regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, the Commissioner-General noted that there has been no real improvement in Gaza, despite the continuing calm between Gaza and southern Israel.

It had been hoped that it would lead to the opening of the borders and that goods and people would be able to begin to move in and out of Gaza, but “there’s been no real change there.”

Conditions have also not improved in the West Bank, where the number of checkpoints has now grown to 630. This makes it extremely difficult for people, including UNRWA staff who live in the West Bank and work in Jerusalem, to get around.

“The whole situation makes it very difficult … developing the economy there, and also makes us very worried about how viable a Palestinian state can be created in a territory that is so completely fragmented as this one is,” she said.

ENDS

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