The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has offered to extend funding support for the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza for six months, allowing the hospital to honor its financial obligations and retain its staff until the end of 2012.
On June 1, UNRWA announced it would no longer fund the hospital, which provides primary and emergency health care to the almost exclusively Muslim population in Gaza. The decision cut the hospital’s budget by approximately $1 million per year, or nearly half.
Bishop Suheil Dawani said in a press release that the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which runs the hospital, is “absolutely committed” to keeping the institution open, “as it is the only Christian hospital in the Gaza Strip, … [but] we know that we need to move quickly to help the hospital transition to a different model, so that it is not financially dependent on UNRWA from 2013 and so that donors can have confidence to continue to invest in equipment and programs.”
Dawani said that the diocese has engaged a consultancy firm to assist with the development of a new strategic plan for the hospital’s future.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori welcomed the news about UNRWA’s bridging contract. While it doesn’t solve the longer-term problem of funding, she said, it does at least offer some space.
“The Episcopal Church is most grateful for UNRWA’s decision to provide six months of transitional support to Al Ahli Hospital,” Jefferts Schori told ENS July 26. “This offers the Diocese of Jerusalem a slim window in which to develop funding for 2013 and beyond. It will be challenging work, but I have abundant hope that partners from around the world will rally to support this essential and transformative ministry of healing.”
UNRWA, which functions as a relief agency for Palestinian refugees, earlier this year decided to run a transparent application process for its funding of in-patient services in Gaza. The Ahli Arab Hospital, one of Gaza’s 21 primary health centers, did not win the contract. UNRWA’s decision came after nearly two decades of partnership with the hospital.
See “Praying for a Holy Land,” and eight minute documentary by ENS’ Matthew Davies.