Despite pledges UN agency aiding Palestinian refugees faces funding shortage

In its progress report for the month of October, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says pledges to its Third Emergency Appeal, issued last June, had risen to $55.4 million. However, only $23.9 million had been received so far, with another $31 million outstanding at the time the report was completed. The report says UNRWA has distributed over 674,000 food rations to over 123,000 families in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the crisis. It has also given $1.9 million to more than 5,784 families, including 233 families who have lost their breadwinner and 688 families whose breadwinners have sustained serious injuries. In all, $580,000 has been granted as relocation fees to over 1,400 families forced to vacate their homes as a result of Israeli shelling and bulldozing.UNRWA staff have also been personally affected by the fighting. On 20 October, an Agency physician was struck by gunfire in the Beirt Jibrin refugee camp while tending to an injured person, according to the report. An ambulance driver who later returned to the scene to retrieve a stretcher and the doctor’s medical bag was also hit by gunfire. Nevertheless, UNRWA-supported mobile clinics visited 77 villages and treated a total of 9,737 patients in the West Bank during the month of October. The Agency’s schools were equally disrupted by the violence in October, with more than 31,000 students losing between 1 and 9 days in the classroom. To respond to the psychological needs of children enrolled in its schools, UNRWA had 33 counsellors on hand in the West Bank to deal with children suffering from post-traumatic stress. read more

TSX up more than 100 points New York indexes also higher loonie

TORONTO – North American stock markets rebounded strongly to close the trading week, with the Toronto stock market posting a triple-digit gain in advance of the Victoria Day holiday weekend.The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index soared 102.26 points to close at 13,919.58 on Friday.In New York, markets turned higher after big drops Thursday as traders appeared to come to terms with the renewed possibly of a June rate hike.The Dow Jones industrial average was up 65.54 points at 17,500.94, the broader S&P 500 composite index advanced 12.28 points to 2,052.32 and the Nasdaq composite rose 57.03 points to 4,769.56.For the past couple of days, the markets have been driven by reaction to minutes from the April meeting of the Federal Reserve which showed a possible interest rate hike in mid-June is back on the table, said Philip Petursson, chief investment strategist at Manulife Investments.All four indexes posted losses Thursday in reaction to the Fed news, which appeared to catch traders by surprise.“I think this is maybe just a bit of a rebound from the past couple of days that have been a little bit more negative in reaction to the Fed meeting minutes,” Petursson said.He thinks it’s more likely the Fed will raise rates when it meets in late July, considering how close the June 14-15 meeting is to the United Kingdom’s June 23 referendum on whether it should leave the European Union.But there’s still an outside chance the next hike could come in June, he said.Despite the market rebound, the Canadian dollar posted its fourth consecutive loss, down 0.11 of a U.S. cent at 76.20 cents US.The loonie is facing headwinds from a resurgent U.S. dollar following the news from the Fed on interest rates. However, that’s unlikely to keep dragging the commodity-sensitive loonie down, said Petursson.While the July crude contract was down 26 cents at US$48.41 a barrel on Friday, Petursson said the long-term outlook is more positive. A conservative estimate for the price of oil is US$55 a barrel at some point this year, he said, and that should move the loonie higher too.“If this is a tug of war between oil prices and the Fed, I think oil prices are going to win and ultimately we’ll see the Canadian dollar higher through the rest of the year,” he said.Elsewhere in commodities, June natural gas was up 2.3 cents at US$2.06 per mmBtu, the June gold contract fell $1.90 to US$1,252.90 a troy ounce and July copper was little changed at US$2.06 pound.New York markets will reopen as usual on Monday, but Toronto remains closed for Victoria Day.Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter. TSX up more than 100 points; New York indexes also higher; loonie wanes by Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press Posted May 20, 2016 9:32 am MDT Last Updated May 20, 2016 at 3:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more