UNITED NATIONS, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The UN agency for Palestine refugees is asking for nearly 250 million U.S. dollars to meet its funding shortfall for the year, the agency's chief said Monday.
Speaking to reporters before a pledging conference to be held later Monday by an Ad Hoc Committee of the UN General Assembly, Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of the agency, asked for generous donations by member states.
The agency, officially known as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), began this year with a funding shortfall of 146 million dollars, said Krahenbuhl.
The situation was dramatically exacerbated by the decision of the U.S. government to cut 300 million dollars of its contribution to the agency. The United States had been the single most important contributor to the UN agency over decades.
UNRWA, alarmed by the funding crisis, managed to garner 200 million dollars of donations at a Rome conference in mid-March, and later received 50 million dollars each from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, bringing the shortfall today at 246 million dollars, he said.
"While we are immensely grateful for all the support that has come in and has allowed us to keep the schools and clinics open to date, we are now literally running out of money for our emergency work and do not have the guaranteed funding levels to open our (new) school year," he said.
UNRWA is a relief and human development aid body for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. It currently helps about 5.3 million people in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria as well as West Bank and Gaza. It offers education for more than half a million boys and girls and runs 140 clinics that see 3.5 million patient visits each year. The agency also conducts emergency operations for about 1.7 million refugees, particularly in Gaza, West Bank and Syria.