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Belgium pledges $23 million 'in solidarity' to UN Palestinian agency after US freeze Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Belgium pledges $23 million 'in solidarity' to UN Palestinian agency after US freeze

UNRWA's funding freeze will affect the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 January, 2018

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As UNRWA lays off crucial staff in the wake of the US aid withdrawal, Belgium has stepped in offering critical support at a time of crisis for Palestinian refugees.
The government of Belgium has pledged €19 million ($25 million) to UNRWA over the next three years, in response to the organisation's call for donations following dramatic funding cuts instigated by the United States to the UN body that assists Palestinian refugees. 

In the wake of the $65 million cut to aid, announced by the US on Tuesday, UNRWA is facing possibly its most severe funding crisis ever. It was subsequently reported by Haaretz that the agency had laid off dozens of teachers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and some 100 workers in 13 refugee camps in Jordan.

On Wednesday, the Belgian government issued a statement announcing Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo's decision to allocate €19 million over the next three years to UNRWA.

The statement added that the funds would be dispersed immediately, given the acute financial difficulties faced by the organisation. It also outlined the fact that it was one of the few countries to pledge multi-annual funding to UNRWA.

"I have a lot of respect for UNRWA’s work, which has to operate in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. Living conditions in Gaza, Syria, the West bank and elsewhere in the region are particularly tough," De Croo said in the statement.
For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy. With the help of UNRWA half a million of Palestine children are able to go to school
Belgium's Deputy PM Alexander De Croo underlined his
respect for UNRWA's work, as he pledged millions of
dollars worth of funding [Getty]
"For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy. With the help of UNRWA half a million of Palestine children are able to go to school. This prevents them from falling prey to radicalisation and extreme violence."

The statement also delivered a resilient message in the face of Donald Trump's funding freeze, emphasising that Belgium, together with its fellow European countries and the EU Commission, was "by far" UNRWA's biggest donor.

It added that Europe will continue its support for Palestinian refugees, in a show of solidarity, deliberately stark in contrast to the numerous blows dealt to the Palestinian cause by the Trump administration in recent months.

It has been widely remarked upon that the US funding cut will affect the most vulnerable Palestinians, with children particularly impacted. UNRWA runs hundreds of schools for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank, Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

It also distributes aid and provides teacher training centres, health clinics and social services.

"Cutting funds to UNRWA will achieve nothing except push millions of Palestinians further into poverty and despair, taking food from their tables, the roofs above their heads, and the schools they send their children to," said Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary Jan Egeland on Wednesday.

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