Biden restores US aid to Palestinian refugee agency

Along with providing $150 million to UNRWA, the US administration announced funding for economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.

Cycling past the closed gate of a school run by UNRWA in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on 6 April 2021

Elizabeth Hagedorn reports in Al-Monitor:

he Joe Biden administration will provide $150 million to support the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency, a partial restoration of the funding slashed by President Donald Trump more than two years ago.

“The United States is pleased to announce that, working with Congress, we plan to restart U.S. economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday.

The fresh funding includes $75 million in economic and development assistance for the impoverished West Bank and Gaza Strip, $10 million for peace-building programs through the US Agency for International Development and $150 million in humanitarian assistance for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

UNRWA provides food assistance and essential services to an estimated 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Palestinian territories as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Describing UNRWA as “an irredeemably flawed operation,” Trump announced in 2018 that the United States would cut off funding to the refugee agency.

The loss of US support plunged UNRWA into its worst financial crisis in the organization’s 70-year history and forced cutbacks on critical programs such as health care and schooling.

In a statement, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini welcomed the renewed US contribution, adding, “There is no other institution that does what UNRWA does.”  “UNRWA could not be more pleased that once again we will partner with the United States to provide critical assistance to some of the most vulnerable refugees across the Middle East,” Lazzarini said.

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