Ireland to provide extra €250,000 funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency

UNRWA officials this week said the agency is battling the most "severe funding crisis in our history"

Ireland to provide extra €250,000 funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency

Palestinians receive food aid of inside the United Nations' offices at the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Picture by: Abed Rahim Khatib/SIPA USA/PA Images

The Tánaiste has announced €250,000 in extra Irish humanitarian funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Simon Coveney, who visited Israel and Palestine earlier this year, said he has seen "first-hand the challenges on the ground" for the agency's workers.

UN officials have been calling for extra funding for the agency, saying the organisation currently does "not have income to ensure the schools will open on time in August".

It comes after the US government dramatically cut its funding to the organisation, with the agency now facing a funding gap of around $250 million.

Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said member states "cannot afford to allow UNRWA’s vital efforts to falter".

He stated: "Failure to provide desperately needed resources comes with a price.

"Across the region, millions of Palestine refugees are counting on us to relieve their suffering and to help them to build a better future."

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl added: "It has been an extraordinarily difficult year for UNRWA. There is no pretending otherwise."

'Essential work'

Announcing the extra funding, Minister Coveney said he was pleased to be able to provide additional funds to help towards meeting the funding shortfall.

He observed: "Recent months have demonstrated the vulnerability of Palestinian refugees across the region, especially in Gaza, where UNRWA schools are a bright spot for young people, enabling them to learn and develop despite their difficult circumstances. 

“UNRWA’s work is essential to maintaining the hope, rights and dignity of Palestinian refugees. The long term prosperity and wellbeing of the Palestinian people will, however, depend on successful political negotiations, and I am personally committed to ensuring that Ireland actively supports the search for a lasting and peaceful political solution.”

The funding will bring Ireland's contribution to UNRWA in 2018 so far to €6 million - up from €5.5 million last year.