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UNRWA gets new cash pledges in donor meeting

March 15, 2018 at 2:33 pm

UNRWA announced today that it had received new cash pledges to enable it to keep working for a few more months, but warned its long-term outlook remains in doubt.

The UN body is looking to cover an estimated $446 million budget shortfall that was largely caused by President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision in January to effectively freeze US aid to the Palestinians.

A donors’ conference in Rome drew promises from countries around the world of additional funds of some $100 million, leaving UNWRA with an uphill task to keep its core education, healthcare and food security services afloat.

“A very important first stop was reached today, but a long way is in front of us,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters after the meeting.

If UNWRA did not exist, if its services were not provided, the security of the region would be undermined

he added.

Washington donates about $350 million a year to UNRWA, which was founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, but so far this year has handed over $60 million. UN officials fear they might not receive any more from the United States in 2018.

US threats of aid cuts - Cartoon [Arabi21News]

US threats of aid cuts – Cartoon [Arabi21News]

Trump said in January the United States would only give aid if the Palestinians agreed to renew peace talks with Israel.

Envoys from around 70 countries and organisations met in Rome to discuss the funding crisis.

Going into the meeting, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl had warned his organisation would run out of funds in May. The new pledges gave the agency a bit more breathing room.

Read: UN releases $30m in urgent aid for the UNRWA

“It will last us a couple of months more into the middle or beginning of the summer,” he said. “We need to be optimistic.”

Among the countries that had offered more money were France, Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Mexico, South Korea, Slovakia and India, he said, without giving any further details.