Plights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon deepen as UNRWA funding crisis deepens

UN agency is currently on the brink of collapse as several countries suspended their funding, following Israeli claims that some UNRWA employees participated in the Hamas-led attacks last October.

1 min read
This photo, taken on March 22, 2024, shows Mohammad Salem, a Palestinian refugee with his family at the Mar Elias Camp in Beirut who suffers from chronic kidney disease. (Photo by Dana Halawi/Xinhua)

by Dana Halawi

“It’s not easy to rely on the support from others, but sometimes we barely have food to feed our hunger,” said Nahida Ajam, a Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon’s Mar Elias camp, after receiving a bag of bread from a man who provides food out of kindness during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The continued financial crisis in Lebanon has exacerbated the already strained life of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s camps, who depend on the generosity of goodwill people to put food on their Ramadan tables.

“Prices soared remarkably compared to previous years,” said Ajam.

Hoda Salem, a 53-year-old Palestinian refugee, works as a cleaner with a salary of 150 U.S. dollars per month. She said two-thirds of her income goes to the electricity bills, leaving only 50 dollars to cover food costs for her and two unemployed sisters.

“Our neighborhoods help us with some food, but it’s never enough,” Salem told Xinhua, fearing that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) will suspend her quarterly subsidy of 150 U.S. dollars.

“If so, we won’t have food to eat,” she said.

According to UNRWA, in Lebanon alone, it provides education for about 40,000 students and its clinics receive around 600,000 patient visits annually.

Moreover, the agency offers services, including maintenance of water as well as sewer and stormwater systems in 12 refugee camps, in addition to basic cash assistance to 65 percent of Palestine refugees in Lebanon, focusing on vulnerable people, children, the elderly and the disabled.

However, the UN agency is currently on the brink of collapse as several countries suspended their funding, following Israeli claims that some UNRWA employees participated in the Hamas-led attacks last October.

On several occasions, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has urged donor countries to reconsider their decisions to stop funding the UNRWA, specifically in Lebanon, which is suffering from a severe economic crisis.

Fadi al-Tayyar, the public information officer at the UNRWA in Lebanon, stressed that “given UNRWA’s operational approach to offering government-like services, no other organization in Lebanon can fill the gap in providing basic services.”

He told Xinhua that the agency does not have a plan B if it runs out of funding, and its dismantling in light of the region’s deep economic crises will have not only humanitarian but also security implications.

Ola Boutros, senior advisor to the minister of social affairs, noted that the decrease in UNRWA funding burdens the Lebanese government, considering its financial inability in light of the compounded financial crises since 2019, which has plunged 82 percent of the population into multidimensional poverty. 

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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