In a speech to be delivered tomorrow (Sunday), to Arab League Foreign Ministers in Cairo, UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Pierre Krahenbuhl, will ask for 47 million dollars for 4 weeks emergency work in Gaza.In his first major policy address since the ceasefire, Krahenbuhl will tell the ministers that “there is a crying need for financial support now, today. Longer term reconstruction must be addressed but will depend on the outcome of negotiations on access for building materials. My main message to you today is please do not wait for weeks before providing support.”

He will argue that “with funds, now, immediately, UNRWA can facilitate minor repairs like new doors and windows for hundreds of houses before the winter. With funds now we can give cash to thousands of homeless in order to rent temporary rooms, and to others to buy essentials to find again their feet.”

In a message to Arab League Secretary General, Nabil al-Arabi he will say “UNRWA can only carry out these tasks if it has the funds to do so. We depend almost entirely on voluntary contributions. Secretary General, you kindly co-chaired a meeting with Mr Ban Ki-Moon in New York a year ago which generated a renewal of the commitment of Arab governments to aim at providing 7.8 % of UNRWA’s programme budget. I have to say that performance at 4% still falls well short of this target. I urge your members to give more generously to allow UNRWA to continue its vital work.”

Krahenbuhl will thank those Arab League members who have contributed to UNRWA’s work in Gaza and across the Middle East:

“I am well aware that several of them already give generously for refugee housing, new schools and clinics and emergency relief. We are grateful for that. But our programme costs – the money to keep our 710 schools, 138 health centres and 40 food distribution centres running – exceed our ability to pay, so that we face a deficit of $50 million this year, even after imposing severe austerity measures. I cannot overstate the precarious state of UNRWA’s finances.”

The UNRWA chief will outline the Agency’s plans to open all its school institutions in Gaza in 7 days time:

“In exactly one week from today the schools will reopen, a remarkable achievement so soon after the end of the conflict. We aim to open 252 schools in over 130 school buildings educating nearly a quarter of a million children, many of them deeply traumatized, but who will be happy to see their friends after the war. I wish I could take you all there so you could see for yourselves both the laughter and the tears. I am sure you all agree that nothing is more important than the education of the next generation and of nowhere is that more true than in Gaza today.

Commissioner-General Krahenbuhl will have a robust message towards Israel on accountability for violations against civilians:

“On seven separate occasions, UNRWA schools used as shelters were hit by shelling or other munitions, and dozens were killed, including children as they slept next to their parents on the floors of our classrooms. We stood up and said this was an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Nothing justified or could imaginably justify Israel’s shelling of UN premises being used as civilian shelters, all of which has repeatedly been duly notified precisely to ensure that they would be preserved. We called for accountability and today I reiterate that call for investigations into these very serious incidents. This must not be forgotten as attention turns understandably to other issues now that the fighting has stopped.

Mr Krahenbuhl will conclude with a powerful appeal for freedom and justice for all Palestinians:

“As I have stated repeatedly during the war, Palestinians are not statistics. They are men, women and children with hopes and expectations similar to those of people everywhere else in the world. Fundamentally, it is time for a change of paradigm in Gaza and in the West Bank. It is time to address the underlying causes of conflict and occupation and to provide freedom to move, to trade and to work. In the meantime, I urge you to renew and strengthen your support to UNRWA so that we can give these children and their families a decent life and the basis for a dignified future.”

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy and Strategic Communications

UNRWA | Office of the Commissioner General | Jerusalem
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