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Palestinian refugee agency to run out of funds by May

UNRWA, which has been in a state of financial crisis since the US pulled its donations last year, is asking UN members to match last year's efforts

THE commissioner of the UN agency responsible for the welfare of over five million Palestinian refugees across the world has urged donors to match last year’s donations again this year.

The United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), which relies almost entirely on donations from UN member states, faced a $446 million (£335.7m) crisis last year after US President Donald Trump’s administration cut its £271.4m donation to just £45.2m.

“Last year we had an extraordinary crisis and an out of the ordinary response,” UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl said late last night. “Our humble request to all the donors is: Please keep your funding levels at the same level as 2018.”

Before the severe drop in funds, the US was the UNRWA’s largest donor. But this year Mr Trump’s government says it will not donate.  Despite this, the UNRWA managed to meet its £9.8m budget last year and has set the same target again this year.

Mr Krahenbuhl said the campaign his agency launched immediately after the US’s shock decision was a success because of the “very important donations” it received. Forty countries and institutions upped their donations including the European Union, Germany, Britain, Sweden, Japan, Canada and Australia. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait donated £37m each.

“Countries that supported us last year, I would say, were extremely proud to contribute to the solution,” he said.

The agency has received £188.4m and is expecting a further £75.3m, which means the agency should have enough funds to last until May. “But from then on we’ll start to reach some crisis points,” Mr Krahenbuhl said.

“If you take Gaza right now … it’s continuously at the razor’s edge. Any shift in humanitarian assistance or conditions that people live in can trigger the need for justification, or the excuse … to go back to war.”

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