The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced the launch of an emergency call for funds in the amount of $800 million to overcome its financial crisis.
The move comes after the United States held back $65 million in donations to the refugee agency when they were expecting around $350 million for the year.
At a press conference on Tuesday in Amman, UNRWA Arabic spokesman Sami Mshasha stated that the amount requested in the appeal is the minimum to meet their emergency food and drink obligations and to rebuild what was destroyed by the war in Gaza and Syria.
Usually about $400 million is spent each year between Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, which includes the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, explained Mshasha. It will cover some 50,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria who have had to flee to Lebanon and Jordan.
Last week UNRWA launched an international hashtag campaign called “Dignity is Priceless” to seek more aid from tradional donors and also find new ones.
“We seek to tap on all people of good will from our traditional donors, new donors, the Islamic world, Arab donors, the private sector, individual giving. Every aspect of the world that we feel we could tap on, the World bank, the IDP and others,” said Mshasha.
Karim, 13-yrs-old, “Every contribution counts so I am making the first step.” Watch the launch of UNRWA #DignityIsPriceless global fundraising campaign in #Gaza #ForPalestineRefugees #FundUNRWA https://t.co/OF9Lzk1zqr pic.twitter.com/yNGMiUbDn4— UNRWA (@UNRWA) January 28, 2018
He stated that getting this basic aid will allow UNRWA to achieve two main goals. To allow refugees not to feel the effects of the austerity measures and to give the agency space and time to secure funding for emergency appeals as well as for their regular budget.
“So we really need this money to enable us to meet our emergency obligations to those refugees and we also recognize that in the marked reduction in American support,” he said.
The U.S. move to cut aid appeared to be in retaliation to organizations that rejected the U.S.’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the U.N. in December of 2017. Trump and his administration threatened to cut billions in aid.
On Jan. 7 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported Trump in delegitimizing payments to UNRWA.
Netanyahu said UNRWA needs to depart from this world, and that the continued support from an agency that specifically supports ongoing Palestinian refugees is a threat to the state of Israel, encouraging the possible right of return.
Many NGOs condemned the U.S.’ decision to withhold money from refugees for political gains as inhumane, and some referring to it as blackmail.
Since then Beligum has stepped up to donate $23 million in aid over the next three years,