India pledges USD 5 million for UN Palestinian aid agency
United Nations, Jun 26: India has pledged USD 5 million in assistance to the UN agency working for the welfare of Palestinian refugees to help bolster its “severe funding crisis” following US’ cut in its annual aid to UNRWA.
A total of 20 countries, including India, announced contributions to the 2018 budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East during a meeting, as officials called for stable financing for the agency amid devastating conflicts and violence in the Middle East.
In March, India announced it will increase its annual contribution to the UNRWA from USD 1.5 million to USD 5 million from 2018-19 for a period of three years.
While India pledged USD 5 million, Sweden will contribute USD 250 million over four years, the UK USD 51 million and the UAE USD 50 million among other donors, said a UN statement yesterday.
Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that in January, the agency’s financial situation became catastrophic due to the sudden loss of USD 300 million in voluntary contributions.
“Facing the most severe funding crisis in our history, we had no time for pessimism or indecision,” he said.
“We cannot afford to allow UNRWA’s vital efforts to falter. Failure to provide desperately needed resources comes with a price: more hardship for communities, more desperation for the region; more instability for our world,” UN chief Antonio Guterres was quoted as saying in the statement.
UNRWA has been providing health, education, relief and social services, as well as emergency humanitarian assistance, to some 5.3 million Palestinian refugees across its five fields of operation — Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — for 65 years, it said.
The Trump administration in January US said it would withhold USD 65 million of USD 125 million it had planned to send to UNRWA.
UNRWA relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions from states and the US is the largest contributor.
Trump has questioned the value of such funding, and the US State Department said UNRWA needed to make unspecified reforms.
Over 120 countries defied Trump in December and voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.