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Homeland Security

UN Raising Funds to Help Curb COVID in Palestinian Refugee Camps

By Lisa Schlein September 05, 2020

The U.N. is appealing for nearly $95 million to contain and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in densely populated Palestinian refugee camps across the Middle East.

Overcrowded Palestinian camps are perfect breeding grounds for the coronavirus. Social distancing is difficult, and access is limited to the sanitary and health conditions necessary to keep the virus at bay.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, says its efforts aimed at containing the virus in the camps over the past few months had been largely successful. Unfortunately, that has changed. Agency spokeswoman Tamara Alrifal says there has been a dramatic jump of COVID-19 infections over the last few weeks, from 200 cases to 4,000 cases.

"The jump is mostly due to the longer-term socio-economic impact of the lockdowns and the closures and the fact that beyond a few weeks, it was not possible to keep everybody confined in camps because Palestine refugees needed to go back to work to livelihoods," she said.

Alrifal describes the situation as very worrisome. She says it is crucial UNRWA receive the funds it needs so it can support the refugees to stay in the camps and prevent a major outbreak of the deadly disease.

She told VOA containing the spread of the pandemic inside the Palestinian refugee camps is critical. She says a virus does not stop at the border of a camp.

"So, in Jordan, where I am based and where I am speaking with you from, we have seen a recent uptick in numbers, despite the fact that the numbers in Jordan since the very beginning have been pretty much contained. So, unfortunately, there is a surge in Jordan, but also in Lebanon and across our field of operation," she said.

Alrifal says the $94.6 million appeal will cover the emergency needs of 5.6 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East until the end of the year.

UNRWA runs operations in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Alrifal says money from the appeal will focus on health needs, cash assistance and education. She notes more than half-a-million girls and boys receive a quality education in 711 UNRWA schools across the region.

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