The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday met to discuss the establishment of a special endowment fund for the provision of support to Palestinian refugees.
During the gathering in Jeddah of the Committee of Experts of the OIC Member States, which was called to discuss the draft statute of the fund, the Assistant Secretary General for Palestine and Al-Quds Affairs Ambassador Samir Bakr Diab announced in a speech that it came in light of the aid shortages facing Palestinian refugees.
In recent months, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has been undergoing a financial crisis due to the decision of United States’ President Donald Trump to cut support and funding to the organisation in August, impacting the humanitarian, social and economic situation of around five million Palestinian refugees.
Many of the refugees who have been particularly affected are the 1.5 million who live in registered camps in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and who are facing huge shortages in essential supplies, tent materials, and sanitation due to the cuts.
The organisation had originally counted on a budget of $1.2 billion for 2018, but following the US decision it faced a gap of $446 million which prompted it to seek emergency support which raised an additional $382 million. Some $64 million remained. Despite its ability to raise a substantial amount, UNRWA suffered a shock from the US withdrawal of support and has struggled as a result.
According to the OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef Bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, the recent US decision to cut funding to UNRWA threatens to “reduce – or completely halt – education and health services provided to more than five million Palestinian refugees.”
The talks to establish the endowment fund – otherwise known as the Waqf Fund – began months before the US decision and was announced in March. Back then, Al-Othaimeen held talks with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Arab League for the purpose of establishing the permanent endowment fund.