Jerusalem, December 10
India on Thursday contributed another USD 2 million to the UN Palestine refugee agency, fulfilling its commitment of USD 5 million in aid annually to support its programmes and services, including education, health care, relief and social services for Palestinian refugees.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has expressed its appreciation for this “generous contribution” coming at a “critical moment” when the coronavirus pandemic has put a huge strain on its operations.
The USD 2 million cheque was presented to UNRWA by Representative of India in Palestine, Sunil Kumar, bringing New Delhi’s total contribution to the agency providing basic services to Palestinian refugees to USD 5 million in 2020.
India had provided the agency an aid of USD 2 million in May this year which was followed by another contribution of USD 1 million in October.
“On behalf of the Government of India, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the remarkable efforts carried out by UNRWA. India shall continue supporting the agency’s activities in providing vital services and necessary humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees,” Kumar said reiterating New Delhi’s unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.
During an Extraordinary Virtual Ministerial Pledging Conference for UNRWA held on June 23, 2020, Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, had announced that India will contribute USD 10 million to UNRWA over the next two years.
India increased its annual financial contribution to UNRWA from USD 1.25 million in 2016 to USD 5 million in 2018 and 2019.
“This generous contribution in support of Palestine refugees at this critical moment is very much appreciated. On behalf of UNRWA, I would like to thank the Government of India for its continued funding to the Agency and its backing of Palestine refugees across the Middle East,” Tamara Alrifai, Acting Director of Department of External Relations of UNRWA, said.
Speaking to PTI about the challenges faced by the agency, Sami Mshasha, Director of Communications at UNRWA, recently said that there is “an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty”.
UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. “India has been a solid and consistent supporter of Palestinian refugees for decades. This contribution is even more significant as it comes at a critical time.
“India is facing a difficult situation at home due to the pandemic and it has still not forgotten the Palestinian refugees and stepped in to help stabilise basic services, including education, health care, relief and social services for Palestinian refugees. I would like to thank the Government of India for its continued funding to UNRWA and its backing of Palestine refugees across the Middle East,” Mshasha said.
“UNRWA has been facing a huge budgetary deficit and with an overwhelming majority of the 5.6 million refugees living under poverty line, the ongoing pandemic has broken the backbone of the basic infrastructure in the area they live. India’s contribution seen in that background is timely and much appreciated,” he added.
India has also sent medicines and other supplies to the Palestinian National Authority to help in dealing with the COVID-19 situation. UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees registered with the agency across its five fields of operation.
Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.
UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection, and microfinance among Palestinian refugees. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Palestine in February 2018, the first-ever trip by an Indian premier, India increased its annual financial contribution fourfold to the UNRWA core budget, from USD 1.25 million to USD 5 million.
India has also made a strong appeal to other traditional donors of UNRWA to consider enhancing their contributions as well as to non-donor member states to consider contributing to the agency in solidarity with the Palestine refugees.
As part of India’s ongoing assistance programmes in Palestine to strengthen capacity-building efforts focused on institutions, services and training personnel, New Delhi is providing 150 places for Palestinian professionals every year under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, in addition to the 100 educational scholarships given at the level of graduate, postgraduate and Ph.D. in the Indian Universities for Palestinian students. PTI