As COVID-19 continues to fuel increased hardship among the two million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, thousands of vulnerable and orphaned refugee children living in the enclave are receiving invaluable assistance from Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) through a generous grant to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The contribution of US$ 2,440,000 will enable UNRWA to extend financial and in-kind assistance to 2,873 refugee girls and boys – including 629 children living with disabilities. This is the fifth consecutive year that IRUSA targets orphans and children with disabilities living in poverty in the Gaza Strip, providing monthly cash assistance, a generous supply of clothing, training and capacity-building and psychosocial interventions designed to protect the wellbeing and development of registered beneficiaries.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, more than 68 per cent of Gaza households reported experiencing severe or moderate levels of food insecurity. In 2020, more than 1.1 million Palestine refugees in the Strip depend on the Agency for food assistance. Since the declaration of the pandemic in March 2020, thousands of refugees have reported increased financial hardship due to government lockdowns that limit their access to jobs.
A recent study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics showed 73 per cent of the main income earners in Gaza experienced a decrease in workload, 39 per cent of household incomes among Palestinian families declined to half or more during the lockdown period compared to February 2020.
In this context, the struggle to develop and access tailored support is even more difficult for children who are orphaned or living with disabilities. Today, more than 10,000 orphaned children are registered with the UNRWA Orphan Programme. Of those, 83 per cent are classified as poor and 90 per cent are growing up in female-headed households. The contribution will also protect education services for more than 500 refugees registered with the Agency’s Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI), the only centre of its kind in the Gaza Strip.
Since its inception in 2015, the IRUSA intervention has assisted approximately 2,400 vulnerable orphans and children with disabilities each year. IRUSA CEO Sharif Aly noted, “Islamic Relief USA is proud of its most recent collaboration with UNRWA, delivering critical financial assistance and a wide range of services to the most vulnerable children living in the Gaza Strip during a time of unprecedented and widespread need. Through this partnership, we are able to help ensure acutely underserved groups are supported in the midst of the debilitating effects of the global pandemic.”
IRUSA was founded in 1993 and supports projects across the United States, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Its programmes, aimed at alleviating world poverty, range from children and orphans to women’s initiatives, food aid, livelihood, education and health.
For 70 years, UNRWA has delivered effective and reliable humanitarian support to Palestine refugees. The Agency’s services include free health care and education, food and cash assistance and microcredit loans to 5.7 million Palestine refugees facing extreme hardship in Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank.