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US funding cut harms Palestinian refugees: UN agency

March 24, 2024 at 6:32 pm

Palestinians gather in front of UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) building to receive the 5 kg flour aid as the first humanitarian aid convoy in months has entered Gaza amid Israeli attacks in Jabalia, Gaza on March 17, 2024. [Dawoud Abo Alkas – Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations relief agency for Palestinians warned Sunday that the US suspension of funding will harm Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and the entire Middle East region, Anadolu reports.

“In Gaza, the humanitarian community is racing against the clock to avert famine,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on X.

“As the backbone of the humanitarian response, any gap in funding to UNRWA will compromise access to food, shelter, primary health care & education at a time of deep trauma.”

The US is the largest donor to UNRWA, providing the refugee agency with $300-$400 million annually.

In January, Washington and several Western countries “temporarily paused” funding to the agency following Israeli allegations that some of UNRWA employees were involved in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, 2023.

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On Saturday, the US Congress approved legislation banning UNRWA funding until March 2025.

“Palestine refugees are counting on the international community to step up support to meet their basic needs,” Lazzarini said.

The EU, Canada and Sweden announced earlier this month that they will proceed with funding for UNRWA as Israel has yet to put any evidence publicly to support its allegations.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the US is still waiting to see the conclusion of investigations that the UN is conducting regarding the Israeli allegations.

UNRWA was created by the UN General Assembly more than 70 years ago to assist Palestinians who were forcibly displaced from their land.

The agency provides crucial support to millions of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other areas where large numbers of registered Palestinians live.

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