Palestinian refugees enduring 'unparalleled' levels of suffering, says UN chief

Gazan civilians are seizing humanitarian aid out of hunger and desperation, UN says

Men walk amid the rubble of a building destroyed during an Israeli army operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. AFP
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Palestinian refugees are enduring extraordinary levels of suffering as the war in Gaza rages on, UN Secretary General said Friday.

“From the Sahel to Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen; to the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Myanmar and Somalia; to the utter devastation we are witnessing in Gaza … Palestine refugees there are enduring unparalleled and unprecedented levels of suffering,” António Guterres said in his closing remarks to the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.

Every four years, the event brings together heads of state, NGOs, refugee delegates and international agencies to discuss the solutions for the world’s growing refugee populations.

Speaking via video, Mr Guterres said the UN system is doing its utmost to support the Palestinians, particularly through UNRWA, the agency for Palestinian refugees.

However, he said, resources to support refugees are under enormous strain – especially in the Global South, which continues to host and welcome the overwhelming majority of refugees.

Mr Guterres highlighted the need to build “much stronger political will to end conflicts, and reverse the cycle of division, destruction and denial of human rights that drives people from their homes and places tens of millions of people in harm’s way”.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, said there was a “breakdown of civil order” and that Gaza was “teetering on the edge of a possible implosion”.

Gazan civilians are seizing humanitarian aid out of hunger and desperation, the UN said.

Current aid deliveries are a fraction of their prewar levels, with aid only allowed in via the Rafah crossing from Egypt.

The UN gathering in Geneva is aimed at garnering support from wealthier states for the low- to middle-income countries that are hosting most of the world’s displaced, which is “helping to stem the tide of misery”.

The UN refugee agency said that participants at a major forum to find solutions to a global refugee crisis had pledged more than $2.2 billion to help refugees and their host countries.

“Participants have demonstrated leadership, vision and creativity in the search for solutions to very complex problems,” said UNHCR Filippo Grandi in a statement.

The number of people displaced worldwide surpassed 114 million by the end of September, marking an all-time high and almost 40 million more since 2019.

Updated: December 15, 2023, 6:32 PM