NEW YORK – Without international support, thousands of Palestinian refugees could be left in the cold this winter, a United Nations aid agency warned today, launching a $2-million ‘Share Your Warmth’ appeal to stave off the rigors of the bitter weather many now face.
"Palestine refugees face great uncertainty, with many of them lacking adequate shelter and struggling to meet their minimum food needs," Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said in East Jerusalem at the start of the annual winter fundraising campaign, which runs until the end of February.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the dire humanitarian situation of vulnerable Palestine refugees during the winter season – particularly the families who have lost their homes or have been displaced due to conflict.
UNRWA, set up in 1949 to provide education, health care, social services, camp infrastructure, and microfinance for registered Palestine refugees, now numbering some 5 million, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip education, is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, but financing has not kept pace with increased demand.
Its General Fund, which supports core essential services, is operating with a large deficit, as are its emergency programmes.
"Palestine refugees demonstrate remarkable courage and generosity in the face of such adversities, such as the family in Gaza who opens their door to those lacking shelter or the humanitarian worker who faces great personal risks to deliver life-saving services in Syria," Mr. Krahenbuhl said.
"But they cannot do this alone. Today, we call upon the international community to demonstrate their solidarity with Palestine refugees and support this year’s #shareyourwarmth campaign to help ensure that no one is left out in the cold," he stressed.
The campaign features a short video which shows two families – one surrounded by conflict and the other in the warmth of their home – who come together to exchange gifts, emphasizing the culture of sharing present in Palestine refugee communities.