U.N. Palestinian refugee aid agency caught in big cash shortfall

Nov. 11, 2013 at 4:54 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- The U.N. agency that provides protection and assistance to 5 million Palestinian refugees faces a cash crunch that could end its operations, its director said.

Funded by voluntary contributions, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East this year faces a $48 million funding shortfall which, if not covered, will mean it can't pay its employees and will grind to a standstill, the United Nations said Monday in a release.

"For the first time in probably decades, [the U.N. agency] is working in an emergency mode almost everywhere in the region where it operates," Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi said.

The agency was created 64 years ago to assist about 750,000 Palestinian refugees, a population that swelled to more than 5 million across Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

"The vulnerability of Palestine refugees is increasing, and with it their fears of marginalization and abandonment, the more so as humanitarian resources are diverted elsewhere," he said.

The agency assists more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria, the United Nations said. Because of the country's civil war, more than half of the Palestinian refugees there are internally displaced and 60,000 others have fled to Lebanon and Jordan.

"We should not forget that the Syrian emergency is a very large, complex crisis that has many important components [and] a Palestinian dimension," Grandi said.

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