Palestinian Refugees In South Lebanon Shut Down UNRWA Office In Protest

MEE/Ahmad Abou Salem

As COVID-19 continued to spread in their camps with no assistance in sight, Palestinian refugees of Ain Al-Hilweh heading to the office of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Sidon on Wednesday to make their plea heard.

Protesting outside the UNRWA office, the refugees accused the organization of negligence that has allowed the daily spread of the virus in the camps, yielding a high number of infections and deaths..

The Daily Star reported that the refugees locked down the UNRWA’s office” following a decision by the Joint Palestinian Action Committee.

Protestors locking up the UNRWA s office. on Feb. 3, 2021. Photo by: Mohammed Zaatari.

The committee representative, Fouad Othman, warned that this was a first step as they intend to escalate their actions until the UNRWA and its director assume “their duties in providing aid to struggling Palestinians.”

The committee deemed it important for the refugees to protest in order to hold accountable the organization for their suffering.

Adnan Rifai, a member of the committee, explained to the local news agency that he had warned Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, that, failure to implement his duties, the refugees will face three options:

“Either die at the gates of hospitals, die from hunger and poverty, or die on the death boats while trying to flee Lebanon out of desperation.”

In 2018, UNRWA reportedly lost its funding from the United States, its largest donor, and has been struggling ever since, although U.S. Congress leaders agreed, in December 2019, to give the agency $150 million in funding.

UNRWA blamed a pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. for the cut of funds affecting Ain El-Hilweh, a status that had brought Philippe Lazzarini to declare that UNRWA is edging closer to a financial crisis.

Controversially, UNRWA has been posting on Instagram about services rendered to the Palestinian refugees across the region.

Just 9 weeks ago, UNRWA announced on Instagram that it has opened the Sabra Health Centre in Gaza with the financial support of Saudi Arabia, “through the Saudi Fund for Development.” The inauguration was presided by Philippe Lazzarini.

The UNRWA warned that it needs around $806 million in funds to cover its regular services, in addition to $550 million for “its emergency and life-saving services based in the occupied West Bank and Syria.”

However, in south Lebanon, the despair of the Palestinian refugees seems to have reached an unprecedented level, as explained by Mahmoud Dahsha, a Palestinian refugee.

He reported to The Daily Star that they have never experienced “this type of hunger, unemployment, and poverty even during the height of the Civil War, the multiple security and political crises, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.”

They intend to escalate their actions of protest until Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, implements his duties towards them and ease their sufferings.

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