The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, needs to find about $350 million a year if the United States pulls all its funding, as threatened.
The European Union said its members, which collectively represent the largest donor to UNRWA, will consult on how to fill the gap.
With social services at risk for 5.4 million Palestinian refugees living in the occupied territories and the wider Middle East, including schooling for half a million children, here’s a look at the numbers and what they mean.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, was formed in 1949 to help Palestinians who fled at the time of the creation of the state of Israel. The United States has been a major donor for 70 years and US funding to the agency averaged $348 million for the five years 2013-2017. But earlier this year President Donald Trump’s administration paid only $60 million, a fraction of the expected US contribution, and on Friday it ordered a complete halt to any further funding.
The US State Department said it was tired of shouldering a “very disproportionate” share of the agency’s spending. However, the US contribution from 2013-2017 represented an average of 28 percent, the same percentage used as the country’s fair share of UN peacekeeping costs.
In an open letter issued today, the head of UNRWA, Pierre Krähenbühl, says there are 5.4 million refugees who have “undeniable” rights that “cannot be wished away”. UNRWA can’t be blamed for perpetuating the refugee issue, he says, arguing that it’s the whole world that has failed to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine.