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Global NGOs criticise drastic US cuts of UNRWA funding

18 Jan, 2018 14:23:00

International NGOs have condemned the US government's decision to cut more than half of its planned funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a Twitter post late on Tuesday that Washington was "holding Palestinian kids' humanitarian needs hostage to political agendas".

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, urged the US government to reverse its decision announced on Tuesday to withhold $65m out of $125m aid package earmarked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

"The move will have devastating consequences for vulnerable Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, including hundreds of thousands of refugee children in the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria who depend on the agency for their education," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

"It will also deny their parents a social safety net that helps them to survive, and undermine the UN agency's ability to respond in the event of another flare up in the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict."

On Twitter, Egeland said: "Cutting aid to innocent refugee children due to political disagreements among well-fed grown men and women is a really bad politisation of humanitarian aid. US holds back $65m aid to Palestinians."

The Turkish ministry of foreign affairs said cuts to UNRWA would "hamper the efforts towards a two-state political solution and regional stability". It also said that Ankara would increase its contributions to the agency.

Yazan Muhammad Sabri, an 18-year-old Palestinian refugee in Dheisheh camp in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, told Al Jazeera last week that "if the wakala [UNRWA] goes away, there will be no education, no healthcare, no sanitation".

"There will be nothing - everything will disappear," he said.

Salah Ajarmeh, a 44-year-old refugee living in West Bank's Aida camp, told Al Jazeera that "if the services stop, there will be a revolution".

"Palestinian uprisings began in the refugee camps in Jordan and Syria, and this will happen again."

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