Palestinian refugees in Lebanon fear their fate if UNRWA funding runs out

BEIRUT (AFP) – Fakhria Al-Ali has been filled with anxiety since hearing the news that donor countries have stopped their support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and she is unable to complete her treatment for breast cancer without help. United Nations Organization.

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Al-Ali, 50, who lives in the Bedawi refugee camp in northern Lebanon, told AFP, “My whole life has been a tragedy, and I need UNRWA very much.”

He added, “Without it, I would die. The whole population would die, especially cancer patients.”

After Israel accused 12 of the agency's 30,000 regional staff of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack, several countries, including major donors such as the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden, announced they were suspending their funding of the agency.

The decision to end support sparked sharp criticism from Palestinians and non-governmental organizations, which said at a time when UNRWA decided to terminate the contracts of 12 of its staff, whose operations were “threatened to be suspended by the end of February.” .”

Al-Ali is one of 600 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon with cancer, out of a total of fifty thousand patients treated by UNRWA.

Dorothy Glass, the agency's director in Lebanon, told AFP, “Without UNRWA, they would not be able to afford the expensive treatment costs.”

Lebanon is home to 250,000 Palestinian refugees, according to United Nations estimates, most of whom were distributed in 12 camps established successively following the Palestinian Nakba and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

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Klaus warned, “If the decision is not reversed before the agency's funding runs out at the end of March, it will have serious consequences for UNRWA operations and for all Palestinian refugees who rely on our services.”

About eighty percent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon benefit from the agency's services, Glass explains, “a number that is growing because of the dire economic crisis” that has ravaged Lebanon for more than four years.

About 5.9 million Palestinians registered with the agency worldwide can benefit from its services, including education, health care, social services, camp infrastructure, microfinance and emergency assistance, including during armed conflict.

-“Death Penalty”-

In the wake of an unprecedented economic downturn in Lebanon, eighty percent of Palestinian refugees live below the poverty line and live in dire humanitarian conditions, with camps lacking the most basic necessities of life and basic services.

Suffering is increasing among Palestinian refugees who have fled the war in Syria since 2011 and come to Lebanon, and their number is estimated at around 23 thousand.

Naja al-Sahar, who took refuge in Lebanon in 2019, described the decision to end funding as “the execution of the Palestinian people” and added that “just as they (the Israelis) are killing people in Gaza, they are killing us slowly. Today.”

Al-Sahir expresses his concern for the future of his children, whose father struggles to provide a living. She asks, “Will our children remain uneducated?”

And, “My son may become ignorant and illiterate. What is his future, a garbage collector?” He expressed his belief that what was happening was aimed at “destroying the Palestinian presence”.

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About 40,000 Palestinian students receive free education through 62 UNRWA schools distributed in many areas.

UNRWA provides Najah's family with monthly assistance worth about $300. His sister Magda, whose situation does not seem to be better, receives the same help.

Magda lives with her two children and her debt-ridden husband in a room inside the Burj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp near Beirut that rents for sixty dollars a month.

She told AFP, “My husband is unemployed and with the help of UNRWA, I pay the rent for the house and the electricity generator. I have two children. Should I leave them without school?”


Unlike the situation of Palestinians in Syria, where they have the right to work, and in Jordan, where they enjoy the same rights as citizens, Lebanon prevents Palestinian refugees from working in 39 occupations. They are also barred from owning property, fearing it would be a precursor to their immigration and prevent their right to return to their lands.

Because of the economic crisis, the horizon has been blocked for many of them.

Haitham al-Jishi says, “The demands of life are very difficult. In the current situation, job opportunities are very limited.”

He continues, “This is an attempt to control the Palestinians.”

For Yusuf Dohuk (40), a father of four, the picture looks bleak.

“It's like life is over. If we don't have basic amenities, what are we left with?” explains that.

He continues, “If they want to stop the aid, let them give us back our land.”

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