United Nations: India has pledged to contribute $5 million in 2019 to the UN Palestine refugee agency, even as it voiced concern over the agency's difficult financial situation due to voluntary contributions from a limited donor base and called for ensuring sustained fiscal support for its work.

India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu said the Government of India has increased its annual financial contribution fourfold to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) core budget, from $1.25 million in 2016 to $5 million in 2018.

He was speaking last week at a meeting of the General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary Contributions to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that as a mark of India's solidarity with the Palestine refugees.

"We pledge to contribute $5 million in 2019, at the same level as in 2018," Naidu said.

He noted that there is a projected shortfall of more than $200 million against a funding requirement of approximately $1.2 billion for UNRWA this year, causing concerns in the Agency about its ability to provide essential services to the Palestine refugees.

"Almost all of the UNRWA's resources come from voluntarily contributions, with a limited donor base. This arrangement is fraught with uncertainties and could cause sudden crisis like the current one. Access to adequate predictable resources is the way forward," he said.

Naidu emphasised that UNRWA's difficult financial situation has caused concern and has put to risk the Agency's core services to the Palestine refugees, notably in the fields of education, health, and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.

India made a strong appeal to other traditional donors of UNRWA to consider enhancing their contributions and non-donor member states to consider contributing to UNRWA in solidarity with the Palestine refugees.

A total of 23 donors announced contributions, or their intention to contribute, to the UNRWA's 2019 budget during the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee, established by the General Assembly as the primary forum for announcing financial support.

UNRWA has been providing health, education, relief and social services, as well as emergency humanitarian assistance, across its five fields of operation - Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip - since 1950. The Agency currently serves 5.4 million Palestinian refugees - 20 per cent of the world's refugees.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted that millions of children have benefited from an UNRWA education and the Agency has provided fundamental services for millions more but the current funding shortfall will only grow unless Member States act soon.

Naidu underscored India's support for UNRWA's work which is providing assistance to about 5.4 million Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full human development potential.

As part of the Government of India's ongoing assistance programmes in Palestine to strengthen capacity-building efforts focused on institutions, services and training personnel, the country is providing 150 places for Palestinian professionals every year under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme.

In addition, during the last five years, under an India-Palestine development partnership, 17 agreements have been signed in the fields of agriculture, health care, information technology, youth affairs, consular affairs, women's empowerment and media.