Ensuring UNRWA support for the Palestine refugees is an investment in human development and dignity
Joanna Wronecka – United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon
Lebanon’s multiple crises weigh heavily on Lebanese citizens, and the refugee communities hosted on its territories are not immune from its effects. Sadly, the most vulnerable are the most impacted. They must not be forgotten.
Like many Lebanese families, thousands of Palestine refugees in the twelve camps across Lebanon are suffering from the consequences of the economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. They, too, are struggling daily to cover their basic needs.
A survey conducted by UNRWA in July 2021 found that the poverty rate among Palestine refugees in Lebanon had reached 73 per cent. This has implications at different levels, including food security, healthcare, and access to basic commodities.
Children are also deeply impacted. UNRWA estimates that during the school year 2020-2021, more than 1,275 Palestine refugee students in Lebanon left school – more than half of them due to psychological distress. Different forms of deprivation and child labour are rampant.
UNRWA remains the lifeline for Palestine refugees in Lebanon, and their growing needs have made its services more vital than ever. Support from UNRWA, particularly in areas such as essential health, quality education, and other services, has been ongoing for decades.
However, the UN Agency faces a financial crisis resulting from a chronic budget shortfall and austerity measures enforced for several years. As a result, its ability to maintain and expand its protection and assistance role and deliver quality services is constantly at risk.
The importance of ensuring the critically needed support for Palestine refugees by UNRWA predictably and consistently cannot be overstressed, as repeatedly underlined by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, including in his reports on Resolution 1701 (2006). This is an investment in human development and dignity.
As we work with the people of Lebanon to alleviate their woes from the multifaceted crises, the Palestine refugees the nation has generously hosted for all these years cannot be left behind. To this end, UNRWA remains an indispensable medium for channeling the necessary support tailored to this marginalised community’s specific needs and circumstances. The unprecedented challenges facing the country today further underline the vital role the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee can play to ensure a life in dignity, peace and security, equally for the refugees and the host population.