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U.S. to stop aid to Palestinian refugee agency

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WASHINGTON: The Trump Administration has announced an end to all funding to the United Nations Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA), alleging it to be “irredeemably flawed”.

“The administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Friday.

“The fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years — tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries — is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years,” she said.

“The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation”, Nauert said.

In January, it had made a $60 million contribution to the UNRWA.

At the same time, she said the US was very mindful of and deeply concerned regarding the impact upon innocent Palestinians, especially school children, of the failure of the UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the body.

These children are part of the future of the Middle East. Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model. They deserve to be able to plan for the future, she said.

As such, the United States will intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and international stakeholders about new models and new approaches, which may include direct bilateral assistance from the United States and other partners, that can provide today’s Palestinian children a more durable and dependable path towards a brighter tomorrow, Ms. Nauert said.

The United Nations regretted the U.S. decision in this regard.

“We regret the United States’ decision to provide no further funding to UNRWA, which provides essential services to Palestine refugees and contributes to stability in the region. The U.S. has traditionally been the largest single contributor to UNRWA. We appreciate its support over the years,” a statement attributable to Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, said.

The UNRWA enjoys the full confidence of the Secretary-General. Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl has led a rapid, innovative and tireless effort to overcome the unexpected financial crisis UNRWA has faced this year, Mr. Dujarric said.

It has expanded the donor base, raised considerable new funding, and explored new avenues of support. In addition, the UNRWA took extraordinary internal management measures to increase efficiencies and reduce costs, he said.

The UNRWA, he asserted, has a strong record of providing high-quality education, health and other essential services, often in extremely difficult circumstances, to Palestine refugees who are in great need.

“The Secretary-General calls on other countries to help fill the remaining financial gap, so that UNRWA can continue to provide this vital assistance, as well as a sense of hope this vulnerable population,” the UN statement said.

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