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#DignityIsPriceless: UNRWA launches $800m emergency appeal following Trump's funding cuts

UNRWA employees protest against US decision to cut aid, Gaza January 29, 2018 [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 January, 2018

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Following US aid cuts, UNRWA has launched a $800 million emergency appeal as it faces its 'toughest crisis' yet.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency launched on Tuesday an $800 million emergency appeal for Syria and the Palestinian territories as it faces an expected $200 million deficit in its emergency budget following US cuts.

UNRWA hopes to allocate approximately $400 million each for Syria and the Palestinian territories, which include Gaza and the West Bank, if funds are secured. The appeal will also cover some 50,000 Palestinian refugees that have fled the Syrian conflict.

"We are sending a message that the agency is here to stay, that it is not for sale, and that it will remain operational until a just and lasting solution to the plight of the Palestinian refugees is achieved," UNRWA spokesperson Sami Mshasha said in a press briefing in Geneva.

Nearly one million Palestinian refugees are dependent on UNRWA for emergency food assistance, a ten-fold increase on the 100,000 Palestinian refugees figure in 2000.

"The $800 million emergency appeal is the minimum requirement for upholding and sustaining our services to the Palestinian refugees who are completely dependent on the agency's aid and services of food, water, shelter and medical assistance," Mshasha added.

The funding call was promoted on social media using the hashtag #DignityIsPriceless

The deficit in the emergency programme is linked to US cuts to the agency said Mshasha. Last year, the agency received $350 million in US aid.

Tens of millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees was suspended by the US earlier this month after Palestinians refused to meet with the Vice President, Mike Pence.

During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland, Trump said the Palestinians "disrespected us by not allowing our great vice president to see them."

Senior Palestinian officials hit back describing Trump as an oppressor and saying, "not meeting your oppressor is not a sign of disrespect; it is a sign of self-respect."

"We give them hundreds of millions," Trump added. "That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace."

Palestinians froze ties after Trump broke with decades of US policy in December by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and declaring he would move the country's embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city.

Palestinian president Abbas said the United States had disqualified itself as a mediator. "We will no longer accept that it has a role in the political process," he said at the time.

Abbas' office said that "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine, and is not for sale for gold or billions" with other senior officials adding that they will not be "blackmailed" by Trump's threat of aid cuts.

Both the Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip have seen daily protests and Palestinians have clashed with Israeli troops across the West Bank and along the Gaza border. 18 Palestinians have been killed since Trump's announcement on December 6.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its "undivided" capital, a position nearly the entire world rejects saying its status should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered occupied Palestinian territory.

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