Palestinian factions Thursday forced the closure of two offices for the U.N. Relief Works Agency in Beirut and south Lebanon to protest modifications to the agency's health care program.

The state-run National News Agency reported that a Palestinian delegation shut down UNRWA's office near Beirut's Cola intersection.

The agency’s office in the southern city of Sidon was also forced to close.

Hundreds of Palestinians blocked a vital road near the entrance to Beirut last week to protest aid cuts by the U.N. and the new applied hospitalization system that would reduce medical services for the refugees.

They have escalated their protests against the agency’s verdict.

The country director for UNRWA in Lebanon, Matthias Schmale, had clarified that the agency is not reducing its services, but merely implemented some amendments to expand coverage for tertiary health care which covers long term chronic issues and advanced medical conditions.

There are about 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread out across 12 official refugee camps.

Palestinians have warned of civil disobedience in all refugee camps if UNRWA fail to resume vital services critical to their livelihoods, including full medical coverage.

UNRWA has been struggling with severe financial setbacks for some time. Funding shortages put the school year at risk early September and a lack of money forced new rules concerning health care subsidies.

Under the new arrangement, which came into effect at the start of the new year, every Palestinian refugee receiving medical services or hospitalization through UNRWA must pay 5 percent of their bill at hospitals run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and 15 percent at government hospitals. Previously, UNRWA covered those expenses.

UNRWA has, however, increased coverage for surgeries undertaken at private hospitals, although numbers of those cases are low.

Source & Link: The Daily Star