3 UNRWA employees hospitalized while on hunger strike
Published Thursday 02/01/2014 (updated) 04/01/2014 14:55
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Three employees of the UN agency for Palestine refugees were taken to the hospital for treatment after six days of hunger striking, an UNRWA employee told Ma'an.
Abdullah Matar, coordinator of the employment program in the UNRWA, said that Hassan al-Butma, Walid al-Hamouz, and Ahmad al-Wehedi have been taken to the hospital for treatment.
"Tonight we enter the seventh day of the strike, and we will continue the strike until the UNRWA responds to our demands and the demands of its Arab workers union," said Matar, who is on hunger strike himself.
Matar said that the strikes were in protest of UNRWA's "shameful" layoffs of 55 employees in late 2013.
"For the 31st day in a row, Arab workers in the UNRWA continue their strike from work," he said. "It seems that the crisis is about to escalate because the UNRWA is not responding to our demands, nor to the proposals of the Palestinian Authority."
Matar said that there were 23 UNRWA employees on a hunger strike in Jerusalem, Hebron, Duheisha refugee camp in Bethlehem, and Nablus.
Earlier, Arab workers union spokesman Farid al-Masimi gave Ma'an a slightly conflicting report, saying that the 23 employees had only been on hunger strike since Tuesday.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunnes told Ma'an that the employees who were on hunger strike were temporary employees whose contracts were not renewed. The funding that provided those employees with salaries had been cut from $40 million to $25 million, he said.
Gunnes said UNRWA advertised 27 job openings after the layoffs took place, but that "those on hunger strike did not apply."
The employees were aware that their positions were "never permanent," Gunnes said. "It seems a bit strange to go on hunger strike for that reason."
UNRWA is the UN agency originally set up in 1949 to ensure relief and development for the Palestinian refugees expelled from what became the State of Israel in 1948.
Today, the agency provides health care, education, social services, and other forms of aid to nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees.