Norwegian Refugee Council Makes Appeal for UNRWA (VIDEOS)

Children in Gaza pose with the flag of UNRWA. (Photo: Days of Palestine)

The US administration’s threat to cut its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees would have disastrous consequences if carried out, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned on Wednesday.

It would punish hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, who depend on the agency for their education. It would deny their parents the only social safety net that helps them to survive under occupation, or in displacement.

NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland said:

“Threatening to cut aid for political purposes to millions of civilians who need it is what we’ve come to expect of undemocratic regimes, not the world’s biggest humanitarian donor. Cutting funds to UNRWA will achieve nothing except push millions of Palestinians further into poverty and despair, taking food from their tables, the roofs above their heads, and the schools they send their children to. Other humanitarian organizations simply do not have the capacity to pick up the pieces if this decision goes through. And it would all fall on Israel, as the occupying power, as well as the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, to do so.”

NRC works closely with UNRWA in Gaza, providing psychosocial support to traumatized children in its schools, and legal assistance to refugees whose homes destroyed in the 2014 war are being reconstructed. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, NRC works with UNRWA to protect Palestinian communities at risk of forcible transfer. Cutting UNRWA funding would undo years of work with a generation living under constant siege and recurring conflict.

In Syria, cuts to UNRWA would further exacerbate the situation for Palestinian refugees there, 95 percent of whom require humanitarian assistance, denying them of their only access to lifesaving aid. It would also have devastating consequences in Jordan and Lebanon, where UNRWA is the single most important provider of assistance and services to Palestinian refugees, many of whom already live in abject poverty.

The US is UNRWA’s largest donor, contributing $364 million of funding in 2017, followed by the European Union. Together they contribute almost 40 percent of UNRWA’s total funding for its core program budget.

“Cutting much-needed aid to refugees because Palestinian leaders have positions the US disagrees with is outrageous,” Egeland said. “We call on the US authorities to not follow through with this threat, which would tarnish its reputation and undermine its role as a humanitarian donor.”

(NRC, PC, Social Media)

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