Palestinian sources confirmed to Al-Nashra that disagreements began to arise in the work team of the Director-General of UNRWA in Lebanon, Dorothy Klaus, a few months after she officially assumed her duties in February. Their resignation without clarifying the real reasons behind this, while the administration is expected to issue an explanatory statement.
The same sources were surprised at the secrecy about the resignation, which practically means reaching a dead end without any party retreating from its opinion, amid the likelihood that the reason for the dispute between Klaus, Thompson and Shebli is administrative, related to some refugee issues.
Despite the resignation, Klaus is moving forward with implementing her work plan for the next stage according to three priorities: increasing cash assistance, improving hospitalization and raising the level of education, “after she completed internal meetings with department heads and senior employees and her meetings with political and popular forces, and continues her field trips to the camps to listen to the problems and needs of their children. To live in freedom and dignity, amid their fears of declining services and the challenges they face with the accumulated financial deficit in the UNRWA budget.
During her last tour of the Burj Al-Shamali camp in Tire, and during a popular meeting, Klaus heard about an additional problem represented in depriving Palestinian families of Lebanese nationality from benefiting from UNRWA health coverage. Most of these people are from the villages of Upper Galilee bordering Lebanon, known as ” The Seven Villages” and they obtained the Lebanese nationality, according to the naturalization decree issued by the Lebanese government in 1994.
In a remarkable answer, Klaus expressed that the agency is ready to back down from the decision, but that this will have negative consequences and repercussions and will lead to distributing the budget to a larger number, and thus the coverage will be less. Additional, raising the hospitalization rate, and re-integrating those who were excluded from coverage.
In August of last year 2022, and in the midst of the suffocating Lebanese living and economic crisis and its repercussions on the Palestinians in Lebanon, UNRWA announced two unfair decisions, the first related to depriving Palestinian refugees who hold Lebanese nationality, and who are covered by the Lebanese Ministry of Health, of coverage. Hospitalization expenses, and the second is stopping the registration of displaced Palestinians coming from Syria to Lebanon, as part of its periodic financial aid program, due to lack of funding.
Commenting on Klaus’ position, the former head of the UNRWA Employees’ Union in Lebanon, researcher Musa Al-Nimr, criticized this justification, and told Al-Nashra that he had sent a letter to Klaus, indicating that her position could not be taken in a good light, because she is known for her insistence on implementing the program. Recording and archiving files by bringing them into the computer world, data and family tree despite the Palestinian objection, rearranging the relief and services department that was canceled with youth and women programs and small loans in Lebanon, and freezing the affairs program based on the demands of the local community at the time, and the disability program only works in Sidon.
Moussa denounced the “UNRWA” decision to deprive refugees who originally hold Lebanese nationality, wondering why it was applied last year 2022, while it was taken in 2016 and remained frozen as a result of difficult living conditions, and how it becomes effective at the height of the Lebanese crisis, wondering how it is applied without reference to The local community, political forces, and UNRWA praise their partnership with them, calling for a review of the health program policy in order to raise the percentage of services, especially for chronic and incurable diseases.
Moussa saw that Klaus’ position is a desperate attempt to create a problem among the people of one people under the pretext that funding is not sufficient, and any increase in hospitalization spending will affect the refugees! While 100% full coverage is required, he said, “It is true that there is a financial crisis, but the waste policy must be stopped under the pretext of a project that we must spend, as happened in one of the education programs, and a university was paid 400 thousand dollars.”
Plenipotentiary and Pope
And the suffering of the refugees themselves, coinciding with the fifty-seventh anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, was conveyed by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philip Lazzarini, to His Holiness Pope Francis in the Vatican, on a visit that is the first of its kind, coinciding with the escalation of the Israeli aggression on Gaza.
Commissioner-General Lazzarini described the unprecedented challenges facing Palestine refugees, especially in light of the lack of prospects for a solution to their plight. He presented His Holiness the Pope with an overview of their urgent needs in the various areas of UNRWA operations, in addition to direct testimonies following his recent visits to Syria and Lebanon in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.
Commissioner-General Lazzarini highlighted the critical work UNRWA does in supporting the human development of Palestine refugees, including in education through more than 700 schools serving more than half a million girls and boys. The education programme, the largest program run by the agency, is shaped by the principles of peace and tolerance. The Commissioner-General asked the Pope to help ensure that the plight of the 5.9 million Palestine refugees is not forgotten and that their right to live in peace and dignity is respected.
“I have brought to Pope Francis the story of Palestine refugees and the critical work and impact of UNRWA services on their daily lives,” said Commissioner-General Lazzarini, adding: “As we approach the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of UNRWA, supporting the human rights of Palestine refugees and the work of UNRWA is even more important. “Vital as ever to help them achieve a life of dignity. The serious financial crisis the Agency continues to face threatens to undermine the human development gains of Palestine refugees.”