UN Calls on Member States to Support UNRWA

UN Calls on Member States to Support UNRWAUN Calls on Member States to Support UNRWA

The United Nations has asked member states to fill a critical funding gap caused by the US government’s decision to cut more than half of its funding to the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

On Monday, a conference held by the UN to raise money for basic services including food aid, medical care and sanitation, commenced in an attempt to help more than five million refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, Al Jazeera reported.

It is unclear how much was pledged by which countries against this year’s shortfall of $250 million facing the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

According to UN officials, the US, previously UNRWA’s top donor, provided $364 million to the agency last year, but only $60 million this year.

The cuts made by US President Donald Trump in January is endangering basic services, including food assistance in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as medical clinics and education services to about half a million children, said Pierre Krahenbuhl, the agency’s director.

“The situation of Palestinians is defined by great anxiety and uncertainty, first because Palestinian refugees do not see a solution to their plight on the horizon,” he said at a briefing before the conference, which was also attended by Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general.

When Trump’s administration announced in January that it was withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment for the relief agency, it was essentially cutting the only lifeline available to millions of registered refugees who have been relying on UNRWA’s services for more than 70 years.

  Budget Gap

Al Jazeera’s James Bay, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said the UN has for months been trying to fill UNRWA’s budget gap.

“It appears there are new funds coming from the European Union, from Mexico, from Sweden and from Belgium—and other countries like the UK, are bringing forward some of their funding,” Bays said.

“The total amounts though are nowhere near the shortfall of $250 million, and the UN is still desperately looking for further funding,” he said.

In March, a summit in Rome co-organized by Jordan, Sweden, and Egypt to help fund the agency managed to raise $100 million in aid pledges, but still fell $350 million short.

The US government released $60 million in January so UNRWA could pay teachers and health workers and keep schools and medical services open in Gaza and the West Bank, but made clear that its donations would be dependent on major reforms.

  Besieged Palestinians

The siege on Gaza, imposed by Israel, that has trapped more than two million Palestinians since 2006, has left residents of the enclave with limited access to water and electricity, and the cuts have proved to be more catastrophic.

In a statement, Hamas, the Palestinian political movement that governs the Gaza Strip, called on the UN to take necessary steps toward incorporating UNRWA’s aid money as part of the body’s main budget.

“The UN should take a responsible decision by approving the agency’s budget as part of its primary budget,” the Gaza-based group said on Monday.

“It is unacceptable that Palestinian refugees continue to suffer; that their lives must depend on international political calculations and racist US decisions that favor the Israeli occupation at the expense of [Palestinian refugees’] inalienable rights,” the statement read.

During the UN meeting, Krahenbuhl warned that one million people were at risk of losing access to food in the strip.

In its statement, Hamas also called on Arab states to “live up to their pledges” and pitch in to the funding of the agency.


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