UN Palestinian refugee agency seeks 11 billion over five years

The main United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees today presented a $1.1-billion blueprint to improve the life chances of 4 million Palestinians and enhance their ability to support themselves over five years.“This is not a prescriptive plan, it is an outline meant to accommodate changing realities and needs on the ground,” UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told an international donors’ meeting in Geneva.“It is a testimony to the commitment of UNRWA and its donor partners to help the Palestine refugees live in dignity and achieve their ambitions for self-reliance and development.”In recent years UNRWA resources have not kept pace with the growing needs of the refugees and by many indicators the refugees are slipping backwards in comparison with the non-refugees they live amongst. Refugee education and health facilities are often hugely overcrowded and under-equipped.Refugee homes, especially those of the one-third who live in camps, are in a dilapidated condition, while UNRWA’s tools for helping refugees out of poverty are woefully overstretched.UNRWA’s medium term plan (MTP) is the product of many months of dialogue between the Agency and the donor community and has been influenced by the recommendations of a major conference held in June 2004 in Geneva to examine the future of humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees.It will enhance the quality of education, health and social services but also better promote self-reliance among the refugees by extending the Agency’s micro-credit programme, increasing its provision of vocational training and by upgrading the conditions in the refugee camps.In education, priorities include matching host authority curricula, reducing the use of rented schools, reducing classroom overcrowding and creating special educational needs centres to work with the most vulnerable children. In health, it focuses on reducing the excessive workloads of medical staff, expanding psycho-social support and early detection of disabilities for children.Last year UNRWA received the most donations for a single year in its 55-year history – more than $502 million.

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