The Norwegian Diplomat Leni Stenseth was appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to serve as Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA.[1]

Moroccan Najat Rochdi  was appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon and resident and humanitarian coordinator.

Najat Rochdi succeeds in the position in Lebanon the Swiss Philippe Lazzarini, who completed his mission in Lebanon on March 31 and was appointed as Commissioner-General UNRWA.[2]

When Philippe Lazzarini took office as the new UNRWA General Commissioner in April this year, he was taking on the challenge of restoring the trust in UNRWA and repairing the damaged  image that the agency reflected in recent years – not least due to the mismanagement that culminated in the resignation of Lazzarinis predecessor Pierre Krähenbühl.[3]

Lazzarini was interviewed by Center for Strategic and International Studies and he mentions the difficult time of his appointment as General Commissioner: Financial shortfall of donations by the US to UNRWA, Covid-19, the renewal of the mandate and the political attacks on UNRWA.[4]

UNRWA is constantly claiming that it’s facing a huge economic depth.

According to UNRWA, the financial scarcity and the resulting emergency are repeatedly justified with some key factors:

US donation freeze

“UNRWA’s important work continues to be jeopardized by the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to terminate all humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees – including $360 mil. for UNRWA and $250 mil. in related USAID programs.

The US Congress has taken the first steps toward reversing this disastrous decision, supporting critical humanitarian funding for the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, including UNRWA. But we need your help TODAY to ensure this assistance is retained throughout the legislative process”![5]


UNRWA releases weekly updates about the situation.

“COVID-19 pandemic, in one of the darkest years for Palestine refugees, this looming menace is creating an even more volatile and dangerous environment for Palestine refugees in the region”.[6]

According to UNRWA, all refugee camps in Syria are Corona free (as of July 3).

Before that, 130 cases were reported on May 22, and 157 cases on May 31 in all five areas in which UNRWA operates.[7]

The refugee camps in Gaza are to be monitored for four months in order to find out how limited resources affect the refugees.[8]

As of June 22, UNRWA said to the Anadolu Agency that the Corona virus spread into some of their refugee camps in Lebanon.

On June 15 a Chinese medical team visited an UNRWA health center in the Amari Refugee Camp. [9]

Lazzarini appointed to his role in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since then, UNRWA is constantly appealing and calling for additional funding to meet the increased conditions and to provide humanitarian aid and additional medical equipment.

UNRWA continued to appeal and cry for help – and was answered with generous donations and offers in June:

  • Qatar gives USD 1,5 mil. donation to UNRWA.[10]
  • On June 19, Germany donated EUR 20 mil. to the COVID 19-Flash Appeal released by UNRWA[11]
  • Thailand pledged a contribution of USD 30,000[12]
  • Azerbaijans Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadorov announced, that Azerbaijan will donate USD 300.000 with the intended use of fighting the Corona virus. [13]

The Real Madrid Foundations Project supports and cooperates with several social projects and sport projects in the West Bank, and pays greater attention to the increased emergency situation during the current Covid-19 crisis.[14]

The additional solicitation requested of USD 14,145 mil. in the Covid-19 Appeal for the period March until May[15], increased to USD 93,4 mil. claim in just a few weeks in early May [16]

Besides the generous extra offers to fight the coronavirus, 75 governments and non-governmental organizations made USD 130 mil. in financial commitments to sustain the operations and services of the UNRWA during an extra-ordinary global  online meeting on UNRWA at ministerial level hosted by the governments of Sweden and Jordan.[17]

Renewal of UNRWAs mandate

June 23, a senior Palestinian official called on the international donors’ conference, which convened in New York later that Tuesday, to increase financial aid to UNRWA. Ahmad Abu Holi, chairman of the refugees’ affairs in  PLO, told Voice of Palestine radio that the UNRWA has suffered from a serious financial crisis due to a lack of international funds.[18]

Lazzarini is in discourse to assure financial help.

He was searching conversation and held  telephone calls with:

  • Qatar Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi[19] to discuss common interests.

Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi also received a telephone call from UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly.[20]

  • UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash, on June 8. UAE  will take over the advisory board of the relief agency from July. UAE funding oder the past 6 years has been USD 216 mil.

On June 12, it was reported[21]  that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Ah Nahyan had a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to ensure further cooperation between the UAE and the UN, particularly in the COVID-19 crisis and to support UNRWA

–     the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),

Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen and Lazarinni  on June 15, the important role of UNRWA in the service of the Palestinian refugees was emphasized.

Both discussed arrangements related to the virtual donation conference that took place one week later on June 23 in New York.

Lazzarini expressed concerns about the promised financial contribution from the donor countries. Al-Othaimeen made a promise to move OIC member states to dontate to UNRWA [22]

  • Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi had a virtual conversation with Lazarinni on Juni 16. Indonesia reaffirms support for UNRWA.[23]

follows a list of some of enormous donations assured by  the donor nations that took part the conference with the already finalized decision about their financial aid to UNRWA:

  • Saudi Arabia will support UNRWA with USD 50 mil.[24]
  • India pledges a contribution of USD 10 mil. over next two years[25]
  • Spain will be contributing USD 5.6 mil. annually to help the Palestinian government build institutions for education to improve health and social protection and support civil society organisations concerned with human rights and UNRWA[26]
  • China will contribute USD 1 this year, including medical equipment. [27]
  • Luxembourg Development Cooperation’s support for UNRWA will amount to € 5 mil. per year under the multi-year contribution agreement concluded for the period 2019-21. [28]
  • Qatar announced additional financial aid in amount of USD 150 mil. for the Gazastrip, including for UN humanitarian programs, starting from March for 6 months [29]
  • The new Irish Government reaffirms its commitment to fund UNRWA.[30]
  • Tunesia pledges a contribution of USD 100.000 to UNRWA.[31]
  • China will make a contribution of USD 1 mil.[32]

In a direct statement after the financial commitments of USD 130 mil. were given by the donor nations Lazzarini said, that this amount would not be enough to meet the requirements and fullfil the needs.[33]

“Some 75 countries and non-governmental organizations have  pledged  USD 130 mil. in financial commitments to the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, UNRWA, following a  virtual conference on Tuesday“.

Nowhere left to cutback

Over the past five years, UNRWA has battled deep budget cuts, which has led to USD 500 mil. in savings. But Mr. Lazzarini said there is nowhere left to trim without affecting the quality of its services.

“Year after year, month after month, UNRWA is on the edge of a financial collapse. This cannot continue,” he stressed, urging countries to take steps, including raising their annual contributions.[34]

100.000 additional refugees

“The number of Palestinian refugees, who receive UNRWA’s services, will reach 1.2 mil. in the Gaza Strip”.

UNRWA needs a budget of 1.4 billion USD for this year, but so far received 416 mil. USD only, which will harm UNRWA’s humanitarian programs.”[35]

It is not clear from his statement where this number is taken from or what exactly is the source of it.

Expression of discontent by refugees in Lebanon and Gaza

The month of June war also marked by protests by some of the refugees. The protestors in Lebanon and Gaza expressed discontent about their circumstances.

Palestinians that were formerly employed by UNRWA, protest for their rights in Gaza City on June 17[36]

Refugees in Lebanon carried out mass demand sit-ins, in front of the offices of UNRWA managers in the camps, with the participation of the Palestinian factions, people’s committees and social institutions, and a large audience of the displaced and their families.

They raised the demanding slogans calling on UNRWA to commit to distributing monthly financial assistance on time, denouncing the mismanagement, corruption and brokerage in the mechanism of distributing financial aid to refugees, and stresses adherence to UNRWA and the success of the international meeting scheduled to be held during the month of June.[37]

160 Syrian Refugee families were protesting in Gaza and called the UN for help to pay rent.[38]

One incident occured at Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. Sadly a mother succumbed to her head injuries after falling into the line of fire coming from drug gangs operating inside the refugee camp. Her baby that she carried in her arms, is in mortal danger[39]

At this point the question should be raised why is there a such a devasting situation for the refugees which is leading them to protest about a their life conditions?

Will all the additional generously raised financial aid  and in-kind contribution as an answer to UNRWAs COVID-19 Appeals in the past months of May and June and   the renewal of UNRWAs mandate with its resulting commitment of the donor nations be allocated into the needs of the refugees and will give them better conditions to live in?





[5] UNRWA news letter 11.21.19

[6] UNRWA newsletter, 07.09.20