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UNRWA projects recieved $67 million from Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has contributed $67 million for projects to be implemented in Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan. UNRWA said its commissioner-general signed on Monday three agreements. The first, valued at $28 million, will support ongoing projects, including the reconstruction of shelters in Gaza. The second, valued at $32 million, will assist UNRWA in the reconstruction and furnishing of several health centers and schools in the West Bank and the implementation of several other ongoing projects; and the third, valued at $7 million, will provide funds for the reconstruction, furnishing and equipping of two health centers and one school in Jordan.

UNRWA workers’ strikes against agency’s administration could be suspended

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UNRWA declared it would suspend its strike against the agency’s administration for 10 days. Suheil al-Hindi, the head of the union, told that at Friday’s meeting with UNRWA’s general commissioner it was agreed to freeze the strike and form a committee to find solutions to the union’s demands. He said that the UNRWA administration had responded positively to the union’s demand to fill a number of job vacancies and had hired 200 new teachers, with 200 others to be hired in January. Al-Hindi reiterated that the union was also calling for an end to UNRWA service cuts across the Middle East, and an increase in salaries for local staff and added that the union would escalate its strikes and protests if an agreement was not reached in the coming 10 days.

1000 UNRWA employees started a general strike to protest against the agency

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Around 1000 employees, working at UNRWA’s headquarter in Gaza, started on Monday a general strike to protest what they described as the agency’s lack of response to their demands. The strike came after the West Bank and Gaza joint committee decided to escalate measures after UNRWA failed to solve many issues relating to finances, cuts and services provided to Palestinians in the refugee camps, said secretary of the Federation of UNRWA Employees Yousef Hamdouna. Suheil el-Hindi, chairman of the Teachers Union of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a press release that the employees went on a strike because of the administration’s disregard of the workers’ rights.

$1.6 million provided for reconstruction works for 244 refuggee families

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United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) disbursed over $1.6 million for reconstruction and severe repair works to 244 refugee families across Gaza. A statement said emergency shelter – including support for home repairs, reconstruction and interim shelter solutions – is a top priority for UNRWA. European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, meanwhile, visited Gaza on Tuesday to get first-hand impression of reconstruction efforts. The group of more than 20 senior European diplomats met with UNRWA officials, Palestinian ministers and representatives of Palestinian civil society.

New economic funds sent from EU to Palestinian refugees

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Yesterday, the European Commission approved a package of assistance of 252 million and 500 thousand euro to support the Authority and Palestinian refugees. And this is only the first part of the EU’s annual support package for Palestine scheduled for 2016.
The High Representative for the Union’s foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, said:  “The European Union renews its concrete commitment to the Palestinians. Through this package, the EU supports the daily lives of Palestinians in the fields of education and health, protecting the poorest families and also providing the Palestinian refugees with access to essential services. These are tangible steps on the ground that can improve the lives of Palestinian people. But these steps are not enough; Palestinian institutions must continue to grow stronger, become more transparent, more accountable and more democratic. Viable and inclusive institutions, based on respect for the rule of law and human rights, are crucial in view of the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State. Because what we want to achieve is the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State living side by side, in peace and security, with the State of Israel and other neighbours“.

The European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, said: “The EU remains firm in its commitment to Palestinians and actively supports a two-state solution. Our assistance to ensure the functioning of the Palestinian Authority and to support vulnerable Palestinian groups, including Palestinian refugees is a concrete example of this commitment. Let me also thank all EU Member States for their continued backing of EU programmes for this troubled region, which have proved effective”.

From the fund package sent yesterday, 170 million and 500 thousand euro will be sent directly to the Palestinian Authority, through the PEGASE mechanism (Mécanisme Palestino-Européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-Economique). With these funds, the EU will support the Palestinian Authority in the delivery of health and educational services, protecting the poorest families and providing financial assistance to hospitals located in East Jerusalem.

The remaining 82 million will constitute a contribution to the budget of the rescue program and the Agency’s work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). This UN body provides essential services for Palestinian refugees throughout the region. This support aims to provide better access to essential public services and increased livelihood opportunities for Palestinian refugees.
A second package of measures, in favor of the Palestinians, will be announced during the year.
For the readers, we specify that the PEGASE is the mechanism through which the EU is helping the Palestinian Authority to build the institutions of a future independent Palestinian state.

Through the UNRWA-logopayment of pensions and salaries of public officials, it ensures that essential public services continue to work. The PEGASE also provides social services to Palestinian families living in extreme poverty and also a contribution to the Palestinian Authority to support the costs of the hospitals in East Jerusalem.
UNRWA agency also provides essential services for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The EU is the largest contributor of this specialized UN agency. Between 2007 and 2014, the EU has contributed with more than 1 billion euro, including 809 million for the budget of the institution’s program. In addition, the EU has made generous contributions to UNRWA requests in humanitarian emergencies and in projects designed specifically to respond to the various crises and the specific requirements arising in the entire region. The partnership between the EU and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestinian refugees to be educated, to live a healthier life, to have access to job opportunities and improve the general living conditions, thus contributing to the development of all the region.

Domenico Martinelli
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