Jordan warned that the financial difficulties of the United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) could be “catastrophic” for the lives of millions of refugees in the Middle East. Palestinian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi commented following a meeting with the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees that the budgetary crisis would mean loss of access to core education, healthcare and food security service that would only “deepen their humanitarian plight”.
The agency got into financial problems after the United States, its long-standing biggest donor, slashed funding, providing just $60 million instead of an envisaged $365 million. Donald Trump had questioned the value of the aid and said that the US would only provide more assistance if the Palestinians were ready to sit at the negotiation table with Israel. “UNRWA faces a dangerous financial deficit that threatens catastrophic consequences on refugees if it is not covered before its financial allocations run out,” Mr. Safadi said.
This is the largest-ever reduction in UNRWA’s funding that has cast doubt on the future of the agency. There has already been an impact on some services and there are fears that the budget cuts could effect the opening of schools at the start of the next academic year. UNRWA operates around 700 schools in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Jordan, who hosts the biggest refugee population, has intensively lobbied with donors. Diplomats fear that the budget crisis is a diversion from the longstanding American support for a Palestinian state and backing for a full Israeli withdrawal from the territory seized following the 1967 Six Day War.