BERN, Thursday, November 19, 2020 (WAFA) - At its meeting yesterday, the Swiss Federal Council decided to continue to provide the same level of support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for the next two years.
“Switzerland intends to continue to support and closely monitor the management reforms initiated by UNRWA. Switzerland's 40 million francs ($44) contribution will help to alleviate the precarious humanitarian situation, create prospects, reduce the risk of young people becoming radicalized, and strengthen stability in the region,” said a statement by the Council.
It said that the conflict in Syria, the Israeli blockade on Gaza, and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the situation of Palestinian refugees and presented UNRWA with new challenges.
“With its contribution, Switzerland is helping UNRWA to continue its work in the face of exceedingly difficult conditions,” said the statement.
Switzerland's annual contribution to UNRWA's budget will remain at the current level of 20 million francs per year for the next two years, instead of the usual four-year period.
Since 2005, Switzerland has been a member of UNRWA's Advisory Commission, which is entrusted with the task of advising and assisting UNRWA's Commissioner-General in carrying out the agency’s mandate.
Switzerland's contribution is primarily intended to support UNRWA programs that provide Palestinian refugees access to education, healthcare and social services. Over half of UNRWA's budget is spent on education. UNRWA operates 711 schools, which provide more than a million children with an education. During the COVID-19 pandemic, UNRWA has taken a number of measures to ensure that pupils can continue to access educational programs, including through remote learning.
UNRWA also operates 144 health centers in the region, which provide high-quality health services for 3.6 million Palestinian refugees each year. It also provides food and targeted cash assistance to some 270,000 Palestinian refugees.
Since its founding in 1949, UNRWA is one of the main Swiss-funded multilateral organizations in the Middle East and a key factor for stability in the region. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General since March 2020, is one of the highest-ranking Swiss nationals at the United Nations.