WEST BANK: A UN agency working for the welfare of Palestine refugees has applauded India’s financial support to keep its basic services operating, especially under the circumstances posed by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Government of India on Monday provided USD 2 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in support of its core programmes and services, including education and health.
The contribution was presented to the UN agency by the Representative of India (ROI) to the State of Palestine, Sunil Kumar. “On behalf of the agency, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Government of India for advancing part of its contribution, which will help UNRWA address cash flow challenges,” Marc Lassouaoui, chief of the Donor Relations at the UNRWA said.
“The continued determination and commitment of India in support of the Palestine refugees is commendable, in particular under the current circumstances brought on us by COVID-19,” he added.
India had increased its annual contribution to the UNRWA from USD 1.25 million in 2016 to USD 5 million in 2019. New Delhi pledged another USD 5 million for 2020 which opens its way to become a member of the agency’s advisory commission, official sources said.
“On behalf of the Government of India, I would like to express my appreciation for the commendable work and endeavours carried out by the UNRWA. We believe that our contribution will support the agency’s activities in providing the needed assistance to Palestinian refugees, and assist in achieving their full human development potential,” Kumar said.
India’s contribution will support the agency’s “dire” financial situation due to the funding gaps that risk its core services to the Palestinian refugees in the fields of education and health.
About 3.1 million Palestine refugees depend on health services provided by the UNRWA. At the same time, the agency’s schools educate 526,000 students every year, of which half are female. The agency was created in December 1949 by the UN to support the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees.
The UNRWA definition of “refugee” covers Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 War. Meanwhile, India is preparing medical supplies for the Palestinians to help them in their fight against coronavirus which is likely to arrive in Palestine soon, an official release by the Indian mission in the West Bank said.
PM Modi last month had spoken to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the phone and discussed the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Modi had appreciated efforts being made by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to protect its population and assured all possible support from India. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had later talked to his Palestinian counterpart, Riad Malki, and reiterated India’s commitment to support Palestine in its battle against the global pandemic.
So far, 554 COVID-19 positive cases have been detected in the West Bank under PA and east Jerusalem, with two casualties. Twenty people were found infected with the virus in Gaza, of which 14 are said to have recovered.
Separately, 17 agreements have been signed under an India-Palestine development partnership between the two sides in the fields of agriculture, health care, information technology, youth affairs, consular affairs, women empowerment and media in the past five years.
New Delhi is to provide an assistance of around USD 72 million through these agreements in projects like the post-2014 war reconstruction efforts in Gaza, construction of five schools, setting up a centre of excellence for information and communication technologies at Al-Quds University and developing a satellite centre in Ramallah.