Author: TOI STAFF
The British government announced Tuesday it would increase its contribution to the United Nations agency that provides services to Palestinian refugees, days after the US announced it was cutting all funding to the organization.
The UK will give an additional £7 million ($9 million) to UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), bringing its total contribution for the current year to £45.5 million ($58.5 million).
In a statement, Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said the money would be used to provide essential humanitarian services.
“UK aid support though UNRWA provides an essential humanitarian and stabilizing force in the Middle East, educating hundreds of thousands of children every year and providing healthcare to some of the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees,” he said. “Today’s UK aid package reaffirms our unequivocal support to this UN agency and the important work it does.”
Meanwhile, Spain also announced it was doubling it’s $1 million in funding to $2 million this year.
The Trump administration announced Friday it was cutting nearly $300 million in planned funding for UNRWA, and that it would no longer fund the agency after decades of support. Instead, it said it would seek other channels by which to aid the Palestinians.
Speaking in Westminster, Burt said he disagreed with the US decision.
“We understand the concerns of the United States but we don’t believe that the way they’ve gone about it is correct,” he said in parliament. “We will continue to support the most vulnerable because again that forms a vital part of a just solution to the issues between the Palestinians and Israel.”
He also said that services provided by UNRWA were essential for the stability of the region.
“We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact a shortage of funds for UNRWA could cause on those that rely on its services, as well as the consequences this could have for regional stability,” he said.
Burt also called on other countries to increase their donations “to ensure some of the poorest Palestinians continue to receive education and healthcare.”
UNRWA’s head welcomed Britain’s decision.
“Excellent news from the UK! Deep appreciation for additional funding announced by Alistair Burt today,” Pierre Krähenbühl tweeted. “I value trust placed in UNRWA and support to our education and health care services for Palestine refugees. Partnership with the Department for International Development is of critical importance.”
The US had supplied nearly 30 percent of the total UNRWA budget, which provides health care, education, and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.