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UNRWA promised new funding at Jordan co-hosted meeting

‘World still cares’ about Palestinians — Safadi

By Agencies - Sep 28,2018 - Last updated at Sep 28,2018

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, on Thursday received pledges of $118 million from donor countries to help it overcome a crisis triggered by US funding cuts, Agence France-Presse reported. 

The pledges came at a conference Jordan co-host, along with Sweden, Japan, Germany, EU and Turkey

Kuwait and the European Union were among the biggest contributors along with Germany, Ireland and Norway, UNRWA chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl told a news conference. France said it would contribute next year.

The United States, which was by far the biggest contributor to UNRWA, announced in August that it would no longer fund the agency.

Kraehenbuehl said the new funds were "a significant step in the direction of overcoming UNRWA's greatest and gravest financial crisis ever", adding that the shortfall in the annual budget now stood at $68 million.

"Five million Palestinian refugees were following these events very, very closely indeed. It was year of tremendous existential concerns, of great anxiety ... I think it is a very big step that has been achieved today," Krahenbuhl said, as quoted by Reuters.  

The administration of President Donald Trump has backed Israel in accusing UNRWA of perpetuating the Middle East conflict by maintaining the idea that millions of Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to homes in what is now Israel.

Created in 1949, the agency supplies aid to more than three million of the five million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who co-hosted the meeting on UNRWA’s funding crisis on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, said discussions were under way on ensuring long-term financing for the agency.

Safadi said the international community had a “firm, unwavering” commitment to keep UNRWA alive and ensure it continues to provide health and education services to Palestinian refugees.

“We’re sending a message that the world does still care about the plight of Palestinian refugees,” Safadi told reporters. 

“The challenge is to sustain this effort and part of what we discussed today is a way in which we could have a long term financial planning so not every year in August, Palestinian kids will be wondering if they have a school to go to,” he said. 

Aside from cutting funds to UNRWA, the Trump administration has also cut $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians for projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump said the United States would only give foreign aid “to those who respect us and frankly are our friends.”

 

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