Bethlehem, 13 Ramadhan 1436/30 June 2015 (MINA) – The UN agency for Palestinian refugees announced Monday that it will cut 85 percent of its international staff on short term contracts in coming months in light of a $100 million deficit.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement that the agency “is taking this measure to reduce costs as much as possible without reducing services to refugees.”
However, he added that UNRWA may have to make “difficult decisions” on its school system for half a million Palestinian children across the Middle East “if the deficit is not filled.”, Ma’an News Agency reports as quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA).
He said that 85 percent of the 137 internationals would be lost “in a phased process which will last until the end of September.”
The first 35 percent will see their contracts end in the coming four weeks, while “another 50 percent will end by 30 September without further extension or renewal.”
Gunness said: “With stringent austerity measures already in place beyond today’s announcement, the agency should be able to continue with life-saving services to the end of the year.”
“These include our health programs, relief and social services, sanitation and emergency projects for which we have funds.”
He said that the agency’s school system in Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria is “essential but some difficult decisions may be needed in coming weeks if the deficit is not filled.”
UNRWA, which provides assistance and protection to around 5 million Palestine refugees, is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.
In recent months, however, the agency had struggled to secure donor funding, particularly given “an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees and deepening poverty.”
The $100 million deficit this year has opened up in UNRWA’s central fund, which supports its essential services and most of its staffing costs.
However, UNRWA emergency programs and key projects, which operate on separate funding portals, have also been running high deficits.
In February, the agency announced that a lack of funding had forced them to stop an emergency cash assistance program for tens of thousands of Gazans seeking to repair damaged and destroyed homes.
UNRWA reported that only $216 million had been pledged for its emergency shelter program, leaving “a current shortfall of $504 million.”
The agency was established in 1949 and assists Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (T/P010/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)