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What is the importance of UNRWA for Palestinians?

UNRWA was established to aid the over 700,000 Palestinians forcibly displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, known as the Nakba

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importance of UNRWA

UNRWA, or the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, is a crucial humanitarian agency created in 1949 by the UN General Assembly. Here is a brief explainer on the importance of UNRWA for the Palestinians.

It is facing severe financial constraints after its main donor, the US, cut funding over terror allegations.

It was established to aid the over 700,000 Palestinians forcibly displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, known as the Nakba.

To put things into context, “nearly the entire population in Gaza now relies on UNRWA for basic necessities, including food, water and hygiene supplies: Al-Jazeera explainer section mentioned.

importance of UNRWA
Operational base of UNRWA (Image: Al-Jazeera)

Operations of UNRWA

The agency operates in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. UNRWA’s mission is to provide essential support such as food, healthcare, and education to Palestinian refugees.

It serves around six million Palestinians, both within and outside Palestine. Contrary to some misconceptions, UNRWA does not run refugee camps but focuses on delivering direct services like schools, primary health centers, and social services.

It also offers loans to Palestinians. Unlike the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNRWA’s mandate specifically addresses Palestinian refugees. “UNWRA is a vital lifeline for 1.5 million refugees in Gaza.

importance of UNRWA
Major donors of UNRWA (Image: Al-Jazeera)

Importance of UNRWA

The importance of UNRWA for Palestinians is evident in its multifaceted support through various programs.

In 2021, over half a million children were enrolled in UNRWA schools, and its Social Safety Net Programme assisted nearly 400,000 beneficiaries.

Additionally, 1.7 million Palestinians received critical humanitarian aid. Especially significant is UNRWA’s role during crises, such as the recent Israeli bombardment.

Nearly half of Gaza’s population sought shelter in UNRWA facilities, highlighting the agency’s indispensable role in providing refuge and basic necessities like food, water, and hygiene supplies.

UNRWA economic importance

Furthermore, UNRWA plays a vital economic role by employing thousands of Palestinians in its various programs.

This is crucial in a region where unemployment rates are among the highest globally, and the agency has helped mitigate the impact of economic challenges, particularly in Gaza.

In summary, UNRWA is pivotal for Palestinians, serving as a lifeline for millions by providing essential services, employment opportunities, and support during crises.

The recent funding crisis poses a significant threat to its operations and, consequently, the well-being of the Palestinian population living in the enclave.

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