European Union contributes €82 million in support for UNRWA

A Palestinian woman holds a child outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine R

A Palestinian woman holds a child outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine R

The conference saw additional pledges to UNRWA of approximately US$ 100 million by numerous donors as part of an global effort to address the Agency's funding shortfall, and to sustain its "vital" services in an unstable region.

The countries of Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France agreed to provide the funding at an emergency funding conference in Rome.

For his part, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said pressure on Palestinian refugees could lead to "an explosion" and negative consequences that affect their lives and their future.

But the U.N.is still running about $346 million short for 2018, and officials warned that critical services could be scrapped if the money doesn't come through.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has so far committed only $60 million to the agency this year, down from $360 million in 2017.

The agency, the oldest and largest United Nations relief program in the Middle East, provides health care, education and social services to an estimated 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

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The US had been UNWRA's largest donor, supplying almost 30 percent of its budget. He said the agency went into 2018 with a $146 million shortfall that ballooned to $446 million without the anticipated USA funds.

Egypt - as the head of the UNRWA Advisory Commission - will co-chair the event alongside the foreign ministers of Jordan and Sweden, Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said. The government says this will help meet "urgent humanitarian needs" by providing food assistance to over one million people living in the West Bank and Gaza and other essential humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, stated: "Today's substantial contribution reaffirms the European Union's longstanding commitment to support UNRWA's work providing basic services to Palestine refugees".

In a speech at the opening of the event, Safadi said, "Our meeting today comes at exceptional circumstances, as UNRWA faces a hard financial crisis that threatens the right of millions of Palestinian refugees to live in dignity", and explained "what we do today is key to 500 thousand Palestinian students to help them get basic right of education at schools, to receive necessary medical treatment, and also concerns more than one million Palestinian men and women to continue receiving assistance to meet their living needs".

Turkey has always been a major provider of funds to Palestine, contributing about $324 million in aid through public institutions and charities between 2013 and 2017.

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