By Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, June 23 (KUNA) -- The Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, is to visit Kuwait soon with the aim to strengthen the partnership for the benefit of Palestinian refugees.
"I will soon be visiting Kuwait. I am in discussions with Kuwaiti authorities for an official visit, which will take place this summer or beginning of the fall," he told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) in an interview in Brussels Wednesday.
"I look forward to discuss more in details the partnership between Kuwait and UNRWA. I know that in Kuwait there is a lot of support for the Palestinian refugees and I hope this will be translated also into a continuous partnership with UNRWA," he said.
Commenting on Kuwait's initiative to promote vaccination among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, he said "the initiative to promote vaccination among the refugees is definitely a welcomed initiative. As we know in the region the vaccination rate is still lagging behind. So any effort to increase vaccination rate is more than welcome." On March 18, 2020, Lazzarini; a Swiss-Italian national, was appointed Undersecretary General and Commissioner General of UNRWA by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
On the current situation of UNRWA, he told KUNA that there are many challenges the UN agency is confronted with.
"One of them is the financial situation. The Agency has been in financial crisis for many years because there has been a discrepancy on what the Agency is supposed to deliver for the Palestinian refugees and what the voluntary contribution of certain member states have been, which has led to constant cash-flow crisis," he said.
This has been highly unsettling for Palestinian refugees and for our 28,000 staff and for the countries hosting the refugees, he noted.
For this reason, UNRWA together with a number of supporter countries have decided to organise an international conference by the end of this October, during which the Agency will be presenting a blueprint in terms of what is expected from it in services delivery.
"The idea behind this is to promote better predictability so that UNRWA becomes a predictable partner in the region," he said. The decision on the venue of this conference will be taken by Jordan and Sweden as co-hosts in July.
He noted that on Monday, June 21st, UNRWA launched a USD-164-million humanitarian and early recovery appeal following the Israeli bombardments of Gaza in May.
The 11-day Israeli air strikes have caused substantial damage to physical infrastructure, including homes and UNRWA installations, as well as water and sanitation networks in refugee camps, he pointed out.
Commenting on his current visit to Brussels, Lazzarini said he is meeting with members of the European Parliament and European Commission officials.
"The EU is a very longstanding, solid and strong supporter of UNRWA. This year we are celebrating 50 years of partnership and very soon UNRWA will be signing with the European Commission a joint declaration," he revealed.
The UNRWA chief appealed to the international community that "it is in our common interest to have a strong, predictable UNRWA in the region to focus on the development of Palestinian refugees and through this predictability we are promoting security in a highly volatile region". (end) nk.hb