Agency taking steps to avert education crisis for Palestine refugee children

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UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl visiting the Abu Tue'ma school in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on 14 September 2014, to celebrate the start of the new school year. Photo: UNRWA/Shareef Sarhan

Ensuring Palestinian youth receive an education is comparable to "a global public good," according to a senior UN official from the region.

Pierre Krähenbűhl, head of the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, briefed reporters in New York ahead of a meeting aimed at shoring up its finances.

UNRWA operates 700 schools across the Middle East, serving 500,000 children.

Financial shortfalls last year almost forced the agency to postpone the start of the school year.

Dianne Penn reports.

Mr Krähenbűhl was speaking ahead of a meeting on Wednesday aimed at keeping his agency on solid financial footing.

He said UNRWA currently faces a US$80 million shortfall, and the goal of the meeting is to learn from the crisis last year.

He told reporters that the potential delay of the 2015 school year was an emotional experience for Palestinian students and their parents.

"The challenge to implement these programmes (is) huge. And I think what has to be understood in terms of the value of education for young Palestinian boys and girls is simply that it is the very foundation on which rests their hope for improved circumstances; for an ability to contribute meaningfully in their lives as they move ahead. So, this is why we see it almost, as was expressed by one of our donors, as a global public good, the need to preserve the education that is provided by UNRWA to this young generation of Palestinians."

Mr Krähenbűhl said UNRWA has taken measures to avert a crisis this time around.

The agency has adopted what he called "a zero-growth budget."

He described it as a major achievement, particularly at a time of "anything but zero growth, in terms of needs."

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'18"

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