UNRWA Funding Gap May Prevent Palestinian Students from Going to School
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency was set to run out of money in September due to a $100 million funding gap. As of Aug. 19, $70 million in last-minute donations were reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., Britain and Sweden. As a result, the funding gap is now $22 million but luckily, services will continue.

The last minute donations came right before the school year is about to start, averting the closure of 700 schools that educate half a million children. The schools have already been forced to increase their class size from 38 to 43. UNRWA already had cut 85 percent of its short-term contracts with international consultants.

As of July, the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees was facing its biggest funding crisis since it started in 1948, which would have led to a hold in the school year and not being able to help the displaced people in Yarmouk camp near Damascus.

UNRWA receives most of its funding from a small number of donors, primarily the U.S., Saudi Arabia, E.U. and the U.K. Just Syria needs $415 million and UNRWA only has 27 percent of that. Why is the funding gap so wide, one may ask?

According to UNRWA’s commissioner general, Pierre Krahenbruhl, “Palestinian refugees are facing their most severe situation since 1948. They have had 50 years of occupation, nine years of a blockade in Gaza and now five years of conflict in Syria. When you look at all of that, how much more can they absorb?”

He spoke with The Guardian about how the four year war in Syria, siege of Yarmouk, and continuous blockade of Gaza has all led to the depletion of UNRWA’s finances and Palestinians facing the greatest crisis since the Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

In the past four years, about 60,000 Palestinians have left Syria and joined long-term refugees who have lived in camps in Jordan and Lebanon for decades.

Krahenbuhl has gone to the E.U. and U.K. government to secure funding. He believes young people without school will leave them susceptible to radicalization, given the instability in the region. He also believes many refugees may try to migrate to Europe.

UNRWA works with 600,000 Palestinians still in Syria, 2 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, 1.2 million in Gaza, 700,000 in West Bank, and 300,000 in Lebanon. UNRWA is doing great work for people that are in dire circumstances, so one would think it could receive more donations from more donors.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: Seattle Pi, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Instability, lack of resources and political corruption are driving everyday people into the “security” of terrorist groups. Most people have a specific understanding of a certain classification of terrorists. These are people in the third world or corrupt countries clinging to radical ideas and concepts of violence and revolution. These individuals are often unable to participate politically in their countries and therefore turn to drastic means in order to have their opinions voiced, which eventually leads to violence.

However, many people are unaware of the influx of people in western countries that are continuing to join such organizations. These include affluent European and American men and women, seeking acceptance in radical terrorist organizations around the world.

In recent years, there has been a particular increase in European women joining terrorist organizations that are established in the Middle East, such as ISIS. What could possibly motivate someone from the western world to join such groups?

In the last year, there have been a number of instances in which Americans were found to be supporting ISIS, both financially and otherwise. While this in itself is frightening, the biggest concern here is that of national security, especially in the United States. What is it that draws people into the group?

What people want is a sense of identity and purpose. As is the case with terrorist recruits in developing nations, individuals in the United States and other Western nations join groups like ISIS as a means for significance and a political voice.

Issues of unemployment and economic insecurity contribute to these motives. As people feel the brunt of economic tensions, they blame the government and often feel helpless when it comes to making a difference politically. Thus, joining a radical group, whose name is seen throughout various modes of information and social media, seems to be a surefire way to be heard.

It is the struggle and disparity that draws people to radical means for change. As examples of Americans and Europeans showing interest in terrorist groups such as ISIS have shown, radicalization can happen under any type of government or societal structure, and in any country. To protect national and international security, and to prevent individuals from radicalizing and seeking a voice elsewhere, it seems that people need a voice that is going to be heard in their home country.

– Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: CNN, BBC
Photo: The Dark Room