Italy has contributed 6.6 million euros ($7.35 million) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in support of the agency’s core programs and services, an UNRWA press release said on Thursday.

According to WAFA correspondence, this year’s amount represents a 61 per cent increase over the Italian contribution to the UNRWA program budget in 2015, and is the first part of a total 10 million euro commitment by the Italian government to the agency in 2016.

This commitment was announced during the Commissioner-General’s two-day mission to Italy in May, during which he met with several senior government officials, as well as members of the academic, non-profit and media sectors.

“We express our sincere appreciation to the government and people of Italy, who have been a consistent and reliable supporter of UNRWA and of Palestine refugees,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl.

“This timely contribution is very important to UNRWA’s ability to deliver core services to Palestine refugees throughout the region, including education, health care, relief and social services, and camp improvement,” he said.

In 2015, Italy contributed 8.75 million euros ($9.56 million) to UNRWA, including 4.1 million euros ($4.36 million) for the agency’s core programs and services, 1 million euros ($1.09 million) in support of the aqgency’s humanitarian response to the emergency in Yarmouk, Syria and 2.18 million euros ($2.39 million) for food assistance in Gaza.

In addition to the above-mentioned core contribution, the remainder of the 10-million-euro commitment from the Italian Development Cooperation will fund further humanitarian initiatives that will be implemented by UNRWA in the occupied Palestinian territory and in response to the Syria regional crisis, said the press release.

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In related news, the Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, Pierre Krähenbühl, carried out his first official trip to India this week in order to build stronger relations between the agency and India, an UNRWA press release said on Thursday.

Krathenbuhl, who started his four day visit on August 28, discussed with several senior government officials Indian support to UNRWA and conveyed his determination to strengthen engagement with India, a country which has strong historical ties with the Middle East and links to the issue of Palestine.

He sought the views of Indian officials on attempts to improve the situation of Palestine refugees and address the root causes of conflict through diplomatic means, said the release.

The Commissioner-General also had several speaking engagements with research centers and universities.

The meetings offered an opportunity to develop a better understanding of India’s views on the Middle East and to highlight the challenges and expectations of Palestine refugees, in particular in Gaza and Syria, as well as the Agency’s role and contribution to human development, mainly through education, said the press release.

“I am deeply encouraged by the meetings held in Delhi and the strong expressions of respect for UNRWA’s work,” said Krähenbühl at the conclusion of his visit.

“The commitment by the Government of India to increasing forms of partnership with the agency is very much appreciated. UNRWA is determined to build on this in coming years to improve its response to the critical needs of Palestine refugees,” he said.

According to UN statistics, Palestinians now make up the largest percentage of refugees in the entire world.

(Photo: Al Ray archive image)

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