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Donor conference for UN Palestinian refugee agency set for March Open in fullscreen

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Donor conference for UN Palestinian refugee agency set for March

The US announced huge budget cuts to UNRWA in January. [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 February, 2018

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The United States announced in January that it would give $60 million to UNRWA - a fraction of the more than $350 million annual contribution that it had previously provided.

A donor conference will be held in March to help fill a funding gap for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees caused by the US decision to cut financial support.

The United States announced in January that it would give $60 million to UNRWA - a fraction of the more than $350 million annual contribution that it has previously provided to the UN agency's budget.

UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl said this month that the US aid cut came as a significant shock to the organisation, which has been operating since 1948 providing food, healthcare, education, shelter and employment for more than five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East.

The 15 March conference in Rome, hosted by Sweden, Jordan and Egypt, will be attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Both officials have called on countries to step in and fill the gap left from the US cuts.

"What we need is for UNRWA to maintain its services. This is not only a humanitarian imperative, it's also critical for the stability in the broader region," said Sweden Deputy Ambassador Carl Skau.

Conference organizers are closely coordinating with the United States "who are supportive" of the effort, he added.

The United States is the biggest single donor to UNRWA, which provides schools and health clinics to 5.3 million refugees in the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Last month, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that Washington would not restore the aid until the Palestinians agree "to come back to the negotiation table" and reach a peace deal with Israel.

Since the US decision, Kuwait has stepped in to contribute $900,000 and about 15 donor countries, including Sweden and Japan, decided to speed up their donations to keep UNRWA afloat.

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