500,000 Palestinian refugee children face school delay over lack of funds

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

Palestinian refugees at an UNWRA school Pictures: UNWRA

The start of the school year for 500,000 Palestinian refugee children could be delayed for months because of a funding shortfall.

More than $100 million is needed urgently if the 2015-16 academic year is to begin at the end of August in 700 United Nations-run schools, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has warned.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called on all donors to ensure adequate and sustainable financing for vital services is in place as soon as possible.

He said: “At a time when crises and human suffering are growing throughout the Middle East, it is imperative that UNRWA – a pillar of stability for a registered population of some five million Palestine refugees – is provided with the resources necessary to enable it to continue providing services including education for half a million Palestine refugee children.”

UNWRA said that unless $101 million is secured by the middle of August, the financial crisis could force the suspension of education services – delaying the start of the academic year at 700 schools and for 7000 youths at eight vocational training centres across the Middle East. School-based psychosocial programmes for children affected by conflict could also be stalled.

More than $1 billion was pledged by governments by the end of 2014 but many have not yet paid up.

The agency provides assistance and protection for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Its services include education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement.

Its Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said the measures “may be required at a time when the agency’s services remain essential to Palestine refugees, their rights and their dignity, and when education has been globally recognised as essential to overall human development.”

UNRWA workers held a sit-in at its headquarters in Amman to protest against the possible suspension of the school year.

The agency said it has enough funding to continue its public health services – including immunisations for children – until the end of 2015.

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