Shamali: 80% of UNRWA´s budget allocated to staff and schools is subject to closure

The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Matthias Shamali, said 80 percent of the agency's budget is earmarked for salaries, warning that schools would close before the end of the year.

"UNRWA is facing a less difficult year than last year," Shamali said during a press conference held by the press house. He said she was able to pay salaries in the first six months of 2019 without problems.

Shamali said that he has recently conducted trips to mobilize funding, including visits and meetings with Member States of the General Assembly, the European Commission, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States of America, explaining that he will visit Germany this week for the same purpose.

He did not receive checks or money in America, but met with a large number of people supporting the refugees and the American Democratic Party and a number of politicians, stressing the need to continue attempts to obtain funding.

According to Shamali, UNRWA's emergency and basic budget this year amounts to $ 1.2 billion for the five regions. UNRWA now has $ 600 million in funds and promises.

He pointed out that during the recent donor conference in New York to get promises of nearly $ 110 million, stressing the importance of continuing work to get out of this difficult challenge.

He added that UNRWA mobilized last year $ 450 million, while providing $ 92 million by stopping some expenses, noting that the West Bank and Syria affected by the emergency appeal process and not only Gaza, where some lost their jobs.

He pointed out that there were hundreds of frozen jobs, which UNRWA could not fill, adding that the current workload was increasing because of the lack of resources for recruiting new staff.

"After the success of the New York conference, UNRWA has funding to reopen the new school year," he said. "But we may have to close schools one month later because there is not enough money."

He explained that one of the hot issues that must be addressed in the coming period, is the extent to be able to maintain the rate of students in the classroom as it is, noting the presence of more than 41 students per semester.

In another regard, Shamali pointed out that UNRWA needed $ 60 million to continue providing food assistance to poor families in Gaza without interruption until the end of the year.

"But I'm worried about the fourth quarter, because we have a debt of $ 60 million, and funding must be found before August," he said.

The agency received $ 20 million for the food program and $ 13 million from Qatar for the job creation program.

According to Shamali, Qatari Ambassador Mohammed Al-Emadi told him that there may be more funds for temporary employment in Gaza.

"There is no limit to unemployment funds and we can absorb all that they pay because there is a great need for jobs," he said.

He also confirmed that UNRWA had not received any other funds to cover services such as rent subsidies paid to families, which had been suspended since last year due to lack of funding.

"So far, we have no money to continue to pay these rents," he said, revealing that UNRWA is currently trying to find ways to pay cash to help the most vulnerable in this category, such as finding unemployment opportunities for some of the most vulnerable individuals.

He pointed out that some donors set funding for specific activities, such as summer games activities this year, denying that the funds of those activities to the emergency budget or programs.

"The economic and social situation in Gaza continues to change to the worst;

"Unemployment is growing, the economy is collapsing and free trade is unable to work, and the main reason is the blockade," Shamali said, stressing the importance of raising it so that people can work and earn income.

Turning to reconciliation, saying: "This issue did not move and of course there will be better opportunities if the internal Palestinian reconciliation."

He also expressed his deep concern about "the erosion in Gaza and social problems," pointing out that the health centers of UNRWA reports on the increase of cases of depression and suicide, psychological cases and drug abuse.

He also revealed the truth about what is traded about the disbursement of $ 150 for a number of poor families in the Gaza Strip.

"Over the past few years, we have been getting money from Oman and being paid during the month of Ramadan to the poorest of the poor," he said. "These payments should have been made during the month of Ramadan, but they have been delayed and we are paying them now."

In this context, he said that the focus of the Bahrain American Conference was on economic recovery, stressing that UNRWA is not part of the discussions regarding the economy.

He said: "As far as I know, no promises have been made. The focus was on reviving the economy and projects. They were trying to mobilize the private sector to invest in the economy, while the sector's message was that they needed a stable environment for investment and the environment in Gaza and the West Bank was unstable."

In this regard, Shamali considered that the continuation of UNRWA's registration of refugees until the moment, related to the lack of a just solution to their cause,

"I am not worried that UNRWA will end soon," Shamali said. "The money that comes to us is worth it, and we must always be positive."

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