Jordan to host fundraiser at UN for Palestinian refugee agency

Jordan to host fundraiser at UN for Palestinian refugee agency

Pupils and teachers gather  on August 29, 2018 outside an UNRWA-run school in the Balata refugee
Pupils and teachers gather on August 29, 2018 outside an UNRWA-run school in the Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank AFP/Jaafar ASHTIYEH

AMMAN: Jordan will host a fundraiser at the United Nations headquarters in New York next month to keep the agency for Palestinian refugees afloat, the kingdom's top diplomat said Thursday (Aug 30).

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the meeting, set for Sep 27 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, "aims to provide financial and political support to UNRWA".

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has been struggling to balance its books since the United States announced in January it was cutting its annual funding by US$300 million.

The Jordanian foreign minister said the New York event aims to "close the gap and put in place a plan that will ensure UNRWA's continued, ongoing funding for the coming years", Safadi said.

It will also "reaffirm that UNRWA is an organisation created by the UN General Assembly, with a clear and particular role, and this role must continue", he added.

Speaking alongside the Jordanian foreign minister, UNRWA director Pierre Krahenbuhl said the agency needs US$200 million to continue its work until the end of this year.

"We're taking about human beings. We cannot wish 5.3 million Palestinian refugees away ... these are people who have rights and for many years now, for decades, have faced a plight and an injustice that is simply immense," said Krahenbuhl.

The agency supports some five million registered Palestinian refugees and provides schooling for 526,000 children in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

But UNRWA has warned it currently only has the funds to keep its 711 schools open for the next month.

By the end of September, "UNRWA won't have a penny," the agency's spokesman Chris Gunness warned Wednesday.

The agency was created in 1949 to support 750,000 Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes during the war surrounding the creation of Israel. Those still alive today along with their descendants are classified as refugees.

US President Donald Trump's adminstration has contributed US$60 million to the agency in 2018, compared to more than US$360 million last year.

Last week his administration announced further cuts to Palestinian aid, slashing US$200 million in funding for programmes in Gaza and the West Bank.

Relations between Washington and the Palestinian Authority nosedived after Trump in December formally recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Palestinian leadership has suspended contact with the US administration and says Washington can no longer play a mediation role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Source: AFP/na

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