UK gives UNRWA £7m boost following Trump aid cuts

UK gives UNRWA £7m boost following Trump aid cuts
3 min read
05 September, 2018
The UK is "deeply concerned" about the UNRWA funding crisis and encouraged others to boost donations for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in face of US cuts
The US has left UNRWA in the lurch by ending all funding [Getty]
The UK is set to increase its funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees by £7m, in response to US President Donald Trump's decision to cut vital US funding from the organisation which provides assistance to some 5 million Palestinian refugees across the region.

On Friday, the US confirmed it was to end all funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), to which the UK and others responded with disdain.

The US has historically been the largest donor to the UN body, which provides schools, medical care, and other social and humanitarian services to millions of Palestinian refugees.

The British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We don't agree with the American administration's decision on this issue . . . We'll be talking to other donors as well to see if we can make up the gap in funding to UNRWA."

The UK joins the likes of Germany, who has already pledged a "significant" boost to its funding for UNRWA.

The UK's Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt said in a statement on Tuesday: "We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact a shortage of funds for UNRWA could cause on those that rely on its services, as well as the consequences this could have for regional stability."

"Whilst today’s UK aid announcement will help to meet immediate needs, we are clear that the UK cannot act alone. For the sake of millions of Palestinians, the international community and other donors must follow our lead and step up support to UNRWA to ensure its vital services are not interrupted," he added.

Over the past financial year, the UK has increased funding for UNRWA from £28.5m to £45.5m.

President Trump's decicion to slash funding to the organisation at the beginning of the year has sparked wide condemnation from the US' European allies, as well as from Palestinians.

The agency relies on the US for 30 percent of its budget. But the Trump administration on Friday called UNRWA an "irredeemably flawed operation" and halted $300 million in planned donations on the grounds that it is an obstacle to a settlement between Palestinians and Israel, something the agency strongly rejects.

Palestinians depend on UNRWA to get by outside their homeland, in countries that treat them as second-class residents with only limited rights.

The funding crisis has caused huge jobs cuts for UNRWA workers, including teachers, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon. Despite the crisis, schools managed to open on time for the new school year on Monday.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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