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US: Congress members urge Trump to restore aid to Palestinians

April 30, 2020 at 4:09 pm

Members of UNRWA prepare food aid in Gaza on 31 March 2020 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Members of Congress have urged the Trump administration to restore aid to Palestinians as they tackle the spread of the coronavirus in the occupied territories, reported Wafa news agency.

In a letter addressed to Kelly Craft, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, 59 members of Congress called for urgent assistance to help fight the disease in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and neighbouring Arab countries that host Palestinian refugees.

“As Covid-19 pandemic numbers continue to rise, we write to seek your assistance in the effort to restart US humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, including UNRWA,” Tuesday’s letter stated.

“As you know, the pandemic has now reached the Gaza Strip with cases beginning to inexorably rise in a place with few resources to combat the outbreak. Coupled with the growing number of Covid-19 cases in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, the pandemic now poses an unprecedented global health emergency.”

READ: Israel restricts UNRWA coronavirus efforts in Jerusalem refugee camps

Since US President Donald Trump took office, America has steadily cut humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinians. As a result the Palestinian Authority and support groups, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), have suffered severe financial crises

Legislators noted that the administration already has funds available through a special assistance programme that could be dispensed to Palestinians without being appropriated by Congress.

“These funds could be put to instant use supporting the public health response, including the 3,300 health care workers staffing 144 UNRWA health clinics that are now on the front lines in combating this pandemic,” the letter said.

“UNRWA is working closely with host authorities and the World Health Organisation with triage care and protocols in place to identify patients with respiratory symptoms.”

READ: Despite the Israeli blockade, Gaza is tackling Covid-19 with typical determination

The US had been UNRWA’s largest contributor by far, providing it $350 million annually – roughly a quarter of its overall budget.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

US decision to cut UNRWA funding - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

US decision to cut UNRWA funding – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]