The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) launched an international fund-raising campaign to compensate for the US decision to deduct tens of millions of dollars in aid to the agency.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), condemned the US measures, saying in a statement: “The US Administration is implementing [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s instructions to gradually dismantle the agency, which the international community has created to protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees and provide them with essential services in education, health, shelter and decent life.”
“The American administration reaffirms its complicity with the Israeli occupation and preempts the issues of a permanent solution by removing the refugee issue from the table and targeting innocent people, specifically this vulnerable segment of the Palestinian people,” she added.
Washington announced on Tuesday it would provide $60 million to the UNRWA while keeping back a further $65 million for now. The US State Department justified this measure saying that the agency needed to make reforms.
The US move threatens the ability of the UN agency to meet its major obligations towards the Palestinian refugees. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools could be affected by the fund cut, as well as Palestinian access to primary health care.
Krähenbühl promised to keep facilities open through the year, saying he would appeal to other donor nations for money and launch “a global fundraising campaign” aimed at keeping the agency’s schools and clinics for refugees open through 2018 and beyond.
In a statement, he said: “At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”