UNRWA's Financial Crisis: A Lifeline for Palestine's Refugees On the Brink

21 Jul
Andrew Whitley

We’re live with Andrew Whitley, former UNRWA New York director, to learn more about the financial crisis currently facing the organisation and what this might mean for Palestinians.UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Work Agency) was established in 1949 by the UN General Assembly to help and protect Palestinian refugees expelled during the Nakba in 1947-8 and today it is in dire financial crisis.

“The financial crisis facing UNRWA is deep and complex. It has been suffering from these issues for many years, but this year is the most dangerous. UNRWA will have no funds to serve Palestinian refugees after August,” Adnan Abu Hasna, the UNRWA representative in Gaza, told Mondoweiss earlier this month.

Today, over six million Palestinian refugees are registered with the agency, relying on it for essential services including education, food, healthcare and jobs. Abu Hasna warned that all UNRWA services will be stopped by the beginning of September if they do not get the necessary funds.

This will apply to all UNRWA programs, not only in Gaza, but in all the areas the agency works, including Gaza and the West Bank inside Palestine, as well as refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

“Nearly half a million students in our schools are dependent on our services. We provide food to nearly 1.2 million Palestine refugees,” he told Al Jazeera.“

In a place like Gaza, any shaking of our programmes or our activities or services will threaten the stability and even the social fabric, as refugees are dependent on our cash assistance programme on education and health.”

UNRWA runs 22 medical centres and 278 schools in Gaza, alongside several programs in human rights education, university scholarships, vocational training, and teacher training.

Andrew Whitley is founder & executive director of Geo-Political Advisory Services (GPAS) & Chair of the Balfour Project. Andrew has had an expansive career first as a journalist for the BBC & Financial Times, before serving as the New York Director of UNRWA & then as Policy Director & interim Chief Executive of The Elders.

Andrew Whitley

Andrew Whitley is founder and executive director of Geo-Political Advisory Services (GPAS), a UK-based consultancy that works on the alleviation of armed conflict in the Middle East and Asia. He was previously Policy Director and interim Chief Executive of The Elders, the organisation of global figures founded by Nelson Mandela. Before joining The Elders in London, in January 2011, Andrew worked for four decades around the world, first as a journalist with the BBC and Financial Times and later, from 1995 to 2010, with the United Nations.