UN Palestinian Agency Calls For Donations After US Freezes Funds

UN Palestinian Agency Calls For Donations After US Freezes Funds

Belgium announced Wednesday it will donate €19 million ($23 million) to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees - following a USA decision to cut aid for the agency.

The head of UNRWA on Wednesday responded by saying that the agency would launch a global fundraising campaign to ensure that its schools and clinics remained open in 2018 and beyond.

"The U.S. has announced it will contribute $60 million to the program budget".

The U.S. State Department announced on Tuesday it was withholding $65 million in aid to Palestine.

While saying the decision would sustain schools and health services, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert echoed Trump in calling on other nations to provide more money because he believes the USA pays more than its share.

"We would like to see some reforms be made", said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, adding that changes are needed both to the way the agency operates and is funded.

"For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy".

How much aid does the United States send to Palestinians?

The decision comes two weeks after President Trump's complaint that America receives "no appreciation or respect" in return for its aid.

In a statement on Wednesday, Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that U.S. government announced a contribution of $60 million for the United Nations agency, down from $350 million total contribution by the country in 2017.

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"At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future".

Krahenbuhl added that the USA move would stoke "further radicalisation" throughout the Middle East. But after a highly critical January 2 tweet from Trump on aid to the Palestinians, the State Department opted to wait for a formal policy decision before sending its first installment.

"A big part of the reason we didn't, after a lot of interagency deliberations".

"This decision affects the education and health of Palestinians and aims to eradicate the question of refugees", Ahmed Aboul Gheit charged.

The agency has laid off dozens of staff members in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and more than 100 employees in Jordan because of the delay and subsequent cut in the U.S. payment, Haaretz reported on Monday.

UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war that followed Israel's creation.

In the coming years, "Belgium, along with the European Union and countries from the region, will continue to support UNRWA and the Palestinian refugees", De Croo's statement said.

"We hope that the U.S. administration and Congress can cooperate in reversing this politically motivated cut in aid before its effects ripple through the Middle East", said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Belgium is together with other EU member states and the European Commission by far UNRWA's largest donor.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a Twitter post on Tuesday that Washington was "holding Palestinian kids' humanitarian needs hostage to political agendas".

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