The United Nations' Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) urged its donor countries for their annual donations yesterday to gather at least US$800 million, in order to provide this year's assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
This comes after the U.S. announced a drastic drop in its annual funding to the relief agency. In 2016, they provided the UNRWA with US$360 million. The initially proposed amount for this year was US$125 million, but that was cut to only US$60 million after the UN voted against Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
That left the UNRWA with about two thirds of its expected budget.
To make up for this, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark already provided their annual donations, and Kuwait, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland are expected to do as well soon.
On top of this on January 22, the UNRWA for Palestine Refugees launched a global fundraising campaign to make up for the money the U.S. is not handing in this year and to keep on with education, health, food and other assistance programmes for 5 million Palestinian refugees.
“I wish to confirm to all Palestine refugees that UNRWA schools […] will remain open [and] health care, and other services will be provided. It is a huge challenge, but it is absolutely imperative,” said in Gaza UNRWA's Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.
"The agency's critical financial crisis following the reduction in US funds threatens our ability to deliver these vital services," added Krahenbuhl.
US decision puts at stake basic education for 525,000 children, food and cash assistance to 1.7 million refugees, and health care for 3 million refugees.
“Services used to be very good in the beginning ... They gave us medication and hospital admissions," 63-year-old Amina Nassar told Reuters. "But now with this donor funding cut for the Palestinians, our situation in the camps is very bad." Amina is one of the 170,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and lives in the Burj al-Barajneh camp.
The refugee status of many Palestinians prevents them from taking regular jobs, making them dependent on the UNRWA for basic services.
The UNRWA was founded in 1949 in order to relieve the refugee crisis caused by the creation of Israel.
Now, Donald Trump's administration is using it as a political tool to sanction UN behavior and force Palestinian authorities to reach a peace agreement.
The funding campaign is using the hashtag #DignityIsPriceless to gain visibility on social media.