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UNRWA's Grandi Says Nahr al-Bared Glass Half Full, On Gaza & Tyre Protests

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- While Filippo Grandi of UNRWA spoke on Friday of the need for more resources, particularly from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Inner City Press asked Grandi about UNRWA's own performance. Video here, from Minute 39:20

Specifically, Inner City Press asked about protests and sit-ins against UNRWA in Gaza, the lagging in Nahr al-Bared, and alleged negligence by the UNRWA clinic in Tyre, a topic Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson about on February 23.

Grandi said that UNRWA lacks money for its humanitarian programs in Gaza, now that attacks like Operation Cast Lead are no longer in the news. But shouldn't these program be a priority, for the Saudi money Grandi also bragged about?

On Nahr al-Bared, Grandi said never has the UN worked on a project this large, $300 million. (The Capital Master Plan, with its growing cost overruns, is larger.) He said that the Lebanese Prime Minister reiterated his commitment two weeks ago. But what about access restrictions, and putting military and naval assets inside the camp?

On the clinic, Grandi said "We cannot meet all the needs... unfortunately one person died." He said, "you picked some issues where out own beneficiaries protest us, it's the fate of the care giver." He said there is an investigation. Here is the transcript, including after-inserted answer, of February 23:

Inner City Press: I think you may have “if asked” on this — there was, described as looting or a riot of an UNRWA facility in Tyre, which was accused of not providing a letter of referral to a Lebanese woman. This took place in the last two days. Pretty big protest of a UN facility in Lebanon, I am wondering, what does UNRWA say of the allegation that they didn’t perform their job?

Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll have to check on that for you, Matthew, I don’t have anything on that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later reported UNRWA’s comments on the incident:

The death of Nisreen Krayyem is very regrettable. The death was caused by the lack of available respirators in Tyre and Saida areas when the patient’s case deteriorated. The only available respirator was secured in Beirut after several contacts were made by UNRWA’s doctors, the hospitals and the patient’s family. The patient was then transported by ambulance from the Italian hospital in Tyre, where she was given first-aid treatment, to Rassoul Aazam hospital in Beirut, but shortly after her arrival, she passed away. Rassoul Aazam is still investigating the case to establish the cause of the death. As a Lebanese married to a Palestinian, Nisreen Krayyem did not need a hospital referral from UNRWA to enter the hospital, but since this category of persons falls under the joint responsibility of UNRWA and the Ministry of Public Health, the Agency did its best to assist her in finding a respirator in hospital.

UNRWA assists Lebanese married to Palestinians, or Palestinians who are naturalized Lebanese, with free-of-charge primary health care, partial coverage in secondary health care where the Agency pays the difference of the Ministry of Public Health rate, whilst in tertiary health care, the Ministry of Public Health rate is more advantageous than UNRWA’s coverage.]

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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