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Gazans protest UNRWA’s lagging role in humanitarian crisis

UNRWA itself is under pressure in recent months due to difficult securing donor funding

Published: Updated:

Palestinian refugees in camps across the Gaza strip on Sunday urged fellow Gazans to partake in sit-in protests infront of the UNRWA headquarters to protest the U.N. refugee agency’s reduced services in the strip.

The popular committees in Palestinian refugee camps in the Palestinian territory said in a statement that the reduction comes at a “dangerous time,” further adding that “forces of evil and aggression” are aiming to force Palestinian refugees from the camps across the region.

They cited the Yarmouk camp as an example of the dire situation of Palestinians in refugee camps in Gaza and beyond.

The popular committees are official entities with connections to the PLO in refugee camps across the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a statement, the committees criticized UNRWA for reducing its employment rate leading many Palestinians to forgo formal university education.

Grievances

Other grievances expressed by the committees included the stopping of monthly payments to Gazans whose houses were destroyed in Israel’s military offensive in the strip last summer.

UNRWA itself is under pressure in recent months due to difficult securing donor funding.

In February, the agency announced that a lack of funding forced them to stop cash assistance programs for tens of thousands of Palestinians whose homes were in need of repair.

In a report released on Thursday, the UN organization said that only $216 milion had been pledged for its emergency shelter program which caused a shortfall to the tune of $504 million.

The report added that “Due to the lack of funding, to date, 47,979 families have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 6,880 have not received the second tranche to continue the repair works.”

The report also highlighted the fact that not even one completely destroyed Gazan home has been rebuilt.

“The Gaza Strip only exists through external funding; 80 per cent of the population are dependent on aid,” adding: “People in Gaza don’t want aid, they want dignity and freedom.”

The protests organized by the popular committees come after Hamas organized a rally in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Friday to protest UNRWA’s lagging contribution.

The latest events come as the Gaza strip grapples with a violent Salafist challenge to Hamas’ rule over the very densely populated strip of land.