UNRWA Appeals for Funds to Tackle Financial Crisis

UNRWA Appeals for Funds to Tackle Financial Crisis

Monday, 10 September, 2018 - 18:00
UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl sits with Palestinian students inside a classroom as he visits a UN-run school in Gaza. (Reuters file photo)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees announced on Monday that it needed $200 million as it struggled to with a financial crisis sparked by Washington’s decision to stop its contribution.

"While UNRWA has experienced many types of crisis since it was created... in financial terms... this is the worst crisis ever faced," UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl told a news conference in Cairo.

The United States was the biggest contributor to the agency's budget in 2017, donating 350 million dollars.

The US State Department said last month it would no longer fund UNRWA because it was "irredeemably flawed".

To help plug the shortfall, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have all said they will contribute $50 million (43 million euros) each, Krahenbuhl said.

He added he was hopeful China, Japan, India and European countries would also contribute funds.

The US decision threatened UNRWA's provision of healthcare and emergency aid as well as education for 526,000 Palestinian refugee children -- though schools did recently open for the new year.

"We are very determined to keep the schools open because you can't go through an education process by opening one day and closing three weeks later," said Krahenbuhl.

"I can't imagine going back to our students and saying we've failed."

Krahenbuhl on Monday met Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit.

Arab countries "will not permit the dismantling of UNRWA", a statement by the League said.

On Tuesday, Arab League states will meet in Cairo for a summit -- attended by Krahenbuhl -- devoted largely to UNRWA.

Arab League member Jordan said in late August that it was organizing a conference in aid of the Palestinian refugee agency for September 27 in New York.

UNRWA has provided essential aid to millions of Palestinians since it was established nearly 70 years ago, just after the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

The termination of funding by the US was welcomed by Israel but described as "cruel and irresponsible" by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

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