Employees of U.N. refugee agency UNRWA staged a rally in the blockaded Gaza Strip yesterday to protest the recent termination of their permanent employment contracts. Protesters decried the agency's decision on Monday to terminate the permanent contracts of hundreds of UNRWA employees and replace them with temporary contracts.
"This move will adversely affect the services provided by the UNRWA in the Gaza Strip and those provided to more than 1.3 million Palestinian refugees [across the region]," Amir al-Meshal, head of the UNRWA employees' union, said at the protest. "These reductions are the beginning of the agency's slow demise," he lamented. He went on to urge the international community to financially support UNRWA, warning that recent reductions in the agency's budget would have a negative impact on Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and throughout the region.
Last month, UNRWA was forced to end its emergency food program, a move that will likely have an adverse impact on food assistance provided to 1.3 million Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza. UNRWA has struggled with a severe crisis since the U.S. suspended $65 million in promised financial aid late last year. According to the U.N., UNRWA requires some $250 million per year to implement all of its aid programs.