Jerusalem: India on Wednesday contributed USD one million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to support Palestinian refugees who have been facing extreme challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a move hailed by the UN body as "timely help". The Government of India handed over the contribution cheque to the UN agency through its representative in Palestine, Sunil Kumar. United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has thanked India for its "timely help".
"India has been a solid and consistent supporter of Palestinian refugees for decades. This contribution is even more significant as it comes at a critical time," Sami Mshasha, Director of Communications at UNRWA, told PTI. "India is facing a difficult situation at home due to the pandemic and it has still not forgotten the Palestinian refugees and stepped in to help stabilise basic services, including education, health care, relief and social services for Palestinian refugees. I would like to thank the Government of India for its continued funding to UNRWA and its backing of Palestine refugees across the Middle East, Mshasha told PTI.
Reiterating India's continued support for UNRWA services, Kumar in a press release said, On behalf of the Government of India, I would like to express my appreciation for the remarkable efforts carried out by UNRWA. India shall continue supporting the Agency's activities in providing vital services and necessary humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees. During an Extraordinary Virtual Ministerial Pledging Conference for UNRWA held on June 23 2020, Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, had announced that India will contribute USD 10 million US to UNRWA over the next two years.
India increased its annual financial contribution to UNRWA from USD 1.25 million in 2016 to USD 5 million in 2018 and 2019. It had also contributed USD 2 million to the agency in May 2020 which brings the total contribution for this year to USD three million so far. "UNRWA has been facing a huge budgetary deficit and with an overwhelming majority of the 5.6 million refugees living under poverty line, the ongoing pandemic has broken the backbone of the basic infrastructure in the area they live. India's contribution seen in that background is timely and much appreciated," Mshasha said.
India has also sent medicines and other supplies to the Palestinian National Authority to help in dealing with the COVID-19 situation. UNRWA is facing an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. It is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection, and microfinance among Palestinian refugees. Under an India-Palestine development partnership, India is currently funding eight on-going developmental projects worth 59 million US dollars, including building a 215 Bed Super Specialty Hospital in Bethlehem, Information Technology Park, National Printing Press, Turathi-Women Empowerment Project, Diplomatic Training Institute and three schools in various governorates in Palestinian Territories.