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Canada offers emergency funding to ailing UNRWA

A man takes UNRWA food aid in Rafah, Gaza [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 October, 2018

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Canada has stepped up its funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees after its financing emergency provoked by Donald Trump earlier this year

Canada boosted its aid for Palestinian refugees on Friday, announcing Can$50 million (US$38 million) for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose mission has suffered since Washington dramatically froze funding.

The Canadian top up comes after the United States, the largest single contributor to UNRWA, announced in August an end to its US$350 million a year funding for the agency.

UNRWA was set up in 1950 to help Palestinian refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 Middle East conflict. Its assistance includees schools, healthcare centres and food distribution for the millions of refugees still living in camps in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring countries.

The Canadian contribution is to be spread over two years. Can$40 million will go to "meeting the basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of Palestinian refugees," Ottawa said in a statement.

Another Can$10 million will be used to provide "emergency life-saving assistance to more than 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon," it said.

In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration reversed cuts to Palestinian aid by his conservative predecessor.

US President Donald Trump, as well as Israel, opposes how the agency operates and how the number of refugees is calculated.

More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation, known as the Nakba, or disaster, to Palestinians.

They and all their descendants are deemed by the UN agency to be refugees who fall under its remit.

Canada said it "exercises enhanced due diligence" for all aid for Palestinians including "strong anti-terrorism provisions in funding agreements."

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