Palestinians in Gaza demand international community save UN refugee agency from financial collapse
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have demanded the international community provide consistent financial support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to protect it from a possible collapse.
A demonstration organised by Palestinian factions was held outside the headquarters of UNRWA in Gaza, coinciding with the donors' conference in the Belgian capital, Brussels.
Protesters carried the Palestinian flag and banners calling on donor countries to provide more support for the refugee agency, which provides critical support to many of Gaza's 2.1 million population.
Walid al-Awad, a senior official at the Palestinian People's Party, called for the right to return for Palestinian refugees - who make up a large proportion of Gaza's population - according to UN Resolution 194.
"This demonstration is not [begging] the international community, but rather to demand a right that has been stolen for 73 years and still exists, and no right will fall behind demands," he said.
He called on donor countries to assume their responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees by providing sustainable support.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini has warned that the agency faced imminent collapse due to a lack of funding and has urged donor countries to step up their contributions.
"The funding for the organisation has not increased in nearly 10 years," he told Al Jazeera last week.
Zaher Al-Bana, a member of the joint committee for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, told The New Arab that to ensure consistent support for the UNRWA, Arab states should not pick up the shortfall for other donor countries and avoid naturalising Palestinian refugees.
He said he hoped the Brussels conference would lead to sustainable support for the UNRWA.
"The popular activities demanding the rights of refugees and adhering to the UN agency will be continued until we achieve our legal demands," he explained.
Earlier in the day, around 60 countries and organisations convened in the Belgium capital Brussels under the auspices of Jordan and Sweden to discuss resuming the financial support to the UN agency and the Palestinian Authority.
The UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 and was mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, said in a press release that it hopes for a positive outcome from the conference and would like to see funding to increase in line with the growing Palestinian refugee population.