UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 24– The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees said on Monday that Washington’s decision to slash funding for the agency threatens the troubled Middle East with “disruptions and instabilities.”
“There is concern … about the disruption and instabilities that this could create,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl told reporters at UN Headquarters via teleconference from Amman, Jordan. He said the United States donated 363 million U.S. dollars in 2017 to his agency. The Trump administration has just decided that it will allocate only 60 million dollars for 2018, creating an unprecedented crisis for the agency, he said. At stake, first and foremost, is the education of 525,000 students in 700 schools throughout the region. Palestinian refugees live mainly in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Also at stake is the health care programs of UNRWA, which sustained 3 million visits to some 140 clinics in the region, said Krahenbuhl.
The cut in U.S. funding also affects UNRWA’s emergency assistance to about 1.5 million Palestinian refugees, including those in war-torn Syria, said the commissioner-general. Although the Trump administration said it was seeking major reforms of the agency, Krahenbuhl said Monday that his agency has not received any specific demands for reform.
The commissioner said UNRWA — created in 1948, before the UN Refugee Agency was established — has maintained good communication channels with the Trump administration and continues to do so. “I have not received any specific communication from the U.S. administration about specific reform-related questions,” he said. “I am absolutely clear in my mind that the decision taken in funding terms was not related to our performance.” The commissioner-general said he is seeking funding from new sources in the wake of the Trump decision. On Monday the agency launched a fundraising campaign called #DignityIsPriceless in a bid to raise half a billion dollars, said
Krahenbuhl. – XINHUA