UN Refugee Agency for Palestinians Pays Salaries, But Crisis Persists

GAZA (Reuters) -
UNRWA’s Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, speaks during a press conference at the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees paid the salaries of 30,000 Palestinian staff across the Middle East for last month, but a funding shortfall may still hinder payment in December, officials said on Wednesday.

UNRWA finds itself in limbo after the U.S. election – President Donald Trump ended all U.S. payments, but while Palestinians hope President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will at least partially resume payments, that could take months.

The agency said last month it had run out of money to pay salaries after two years of funding cuts by the United States and other donors, including Arab Gulf states.

Adnan Abu Hasna, an UNRWA spokesman in Gaza, said the November salary payments were made possible only by a $20 million loan from the United Nations, $12 million in new pledges and an advance from Sweden on its 2021 contribution.

“The payment of December remains uncertain and we are in need of $38 million to pay the salaries of our 30,000 staff,” Abu Hasna told Reuters.

UNRWA provides education, health and relief services to around 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees, including those in Gaza, Yehuda and Shomron, and east Yerushalayim.