The U.S. on Friday announced it is zcutting all of its funding for the UN’s Palestine refugee agency.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington “will no longer commit further funding” to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“The fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years,” she said.
The U.S. was by far UNRWA’s largest funder, giving $350 million annually, or about one-quarter of the agency’s budget.
The agency is responsible for a number of critical programs for the more than 5 million Palestinian living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It provides them with schooling, health services and food security, among other services.
UNRWA earlier this week warned if Washington went through with its funding cut it would likely result in greater instability in the region.
“You have to ask yourself the question: what would the Middle East look like if the most vulnerable people in that region were not to be receiving services from a UN humanitarian organization,” agency spokesman Chris Gunness told Anadolu Agnecy.
“I think the answer is there would be a lot more angry, and hungry, and ill-educated people and that does not bode well for peace in the Middle East,” he added.
Nauert acknowledged the impact Washington’s decision would have “upon innocent Palestinians,” but placed with blame for the U.S. action with UNRWA.
Referring to school children effected by the decision, she said: “These children are part of the future of the Middle East. Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model. They deserve to be able to plan for the future.
“Accordingly, the United States will intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and international stakeholders about new models and new approaches, which may include direct bilateral assistance from the United States and other partners, that can provide today’s Palestinian children with a more durable and dependable path towards a brighter tomorrow,” she said.