The global economic crisis has pushed UNRWA, the U.N. agency that delivers basic services to millions of Palestinian refugees, into a "danger zone" that could no longer fulfill its mandate, the agency's head said on Thursday.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said stagnant resources as costs spiraled were pushing many of the 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East - for many of whom the agency is a lifeline - to unprecedented poverty levels.
"There is an erosion of our capacity to deliver and at a given point if we continue on this trajectory we will reach a situation where we will not be able anymore to fulfill our mandate ... this a danger zone," Lazzarini told Reuters in an interview.
Multiple crises that had hit the region have been worsened by the impact of the war in Ukraine, meaning the plight of Palestinian refugees was "de-prioritized" by many donors, he added.
UNRWA provides public-like services including schools, primary health services, and aid relief in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The renewal of the agency's mandate for another three years will be put to a vote at the U.N. General Assembly later this year.
"The level of despair and distress is heartbreaking," Lazzarini said. Poverty rates had gone up to 90% from 80% in some overcrowded camps in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, he said.
The United Nations defines poverty as income of less than $2 per day.