The United States on Friday announced that it is ending decades of funding for the United Nations agency that works with Palestinian refugees. The US State Department said in a statement that it will no longer commit to the “irredeemably flawed operation” of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
The US supplies around 30% of the total budget of the agency, and with this decision nearly $300 million (Rs 2,216 crore) of planned support will be cut. The UNRWA’s “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years”, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in the statement.
The move came a week after the Donald Trump administration announced that it was cutting more than $200 million in economic aid to Palestinians. The White House, in January, had suspended most of the aid after making a $60-million contribution. Nauert said the administration had then clarified that it was no longer “willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs that we had assumed for many years”.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed regret over the decision and urged other countries to help fill the gap, PTI reported.
UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said the agency expressed deep regret and disappointment over the decision. “We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA’s schools, health centres, and emergency assistance programs are ‘irredeemably flawed’,” Gunness said on Twitter.
Palestinian Authority spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdainah said neither the US nor anybody else “will be able to dissolve” the agency. “Such a punishment will not succeed to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution,” Rdainah told Reuters.
According to the agency, it provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.