UN Palestinian refugee agency out of money for first time in its history

©Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

The Commissioner-General of the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees has said that the agency does not have enough cash for the first time in its history to cover its expenses between now and the end of the year.

"We are on the edge of the cliff but I still believe we can avoid to fall if the solidarity of the international community is expressed now," Lazzarini told reporters at a news conference in Gaza City on Thursday.

He said that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would continue to provide all of its services for now and would pay its staff November salaries.

Lazzarini also said the health system in the Gaza Strip was "about to collapse" amid an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Founded in 1949, UNRWA runs schools and provides health services as well as other humanitarian aid to an estimated 5.7 million Palestinians with refugee status.

Lazzarini was appointed to head the agency in March, after a predecessor was forced to resign late last year amid accusations of mismanagement that led key donors to snap shut their purses.

The developments only added to the agency's financial woes, coming after US President Donald Trump terminated US contributions to UNRWA in 2018.

Washington had until then been providing the agency with more than $300 million a year.

Around 40 countries initially helped fill the gap, but contributions have since diminished and the novel coronavirus pandemic has also taken a financial toll on donor countries.

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