UN Relief and Works Agency warned on Monday that one million people in Gaza Strip, half of its residents, would starve if the organisation did not secure $60m in aid for its food programmes.
In a statement the international organisation said: “At a time when Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan, often characterised by the festive nature of its Iftars, in Gaza, more than half the population depends on food aid from the international community.”
The statement stressed that unless UNRWA secures “at least an additional $60 million by June, their ability to continue providing food to more than one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, including some 620,000 abject poor – those who cannot cover their basic food needs and who have to survive on $1.6 per day – and nearly 390,000 absolute poor – those who survive on about $3.5 per day – will be severely challenged.”
UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. From fewer than 80,000 Palestine refugees receiving UNRWA social assistance in Gaza in the year 2000, there are today over one million people who need emergency food assistance without which they cannot get through their day.
Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, said: “This is a near ten-fold increase caused by the blockade that lead to the closure of Gaza and its disastrous impact on the local economy, the successive conflicts that razed entire neighbourhoods and public infrastructure to the ground, and the ongoing internal Palestinian political crisis that started in 2007 with the arrival of Hamas to power in Gaza.”
A report issued by the United Nations in 2017 warned that the Gaza Strip would be “uninhabitable” by 2020.
The unemployment rate in Gaza rose to 52 per cent last year, with more than one million of the enclaves two million population dependent on quarterly UNRWA food handouts.
Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Last year, the US State Department said Washington would “no longer commit funding” to the UNRWA.
The US had been UNRWA’s largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million annually — roughly a quarter of the agency’s overall budget.
This came a month after reports emerged of a secret American report stated that there are only 40,000 Palestinian refugees, noting they are the Palestinians who left their home land in 1948 and remain alive today and not their descendants.
US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is reported to have tried to pressure Jordan to strip more than two million Palestinians of refugee status in a move that aims to end the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).