UN Palestinian refugee agency appeals for funds

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit (R) receives Pierre Krahenbuhl (C) Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), at the Arab League's headquarters in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on September 10, 2018. The meeting come after the latest decision by the United States to cut all funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) which helps some three million needy refugees across the Middle East. — AFP

Cairo — The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Monday appealed for funds to tackle an unprecedented financial crisis caused by the US scrapping contributions.

Speaking at a press conference, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl expressed thanks to the Arab countries that contributed to the budget of UNRWA, pointing out that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have announced assistance worth $50 million each to UNRWA to support the Palestinian refugees and children, and provide health services to more than 1.5 million Palestinian refugees.

"We still need $200 million (172 million euros) to tackle the deficit this year," Krahenbuhl told the news conference in Cairo.

"While UNRWA has experienced many types of crisis since it was created... in financial terms... this is the worst crisis ever faced," he said.

The United States was the biggest contributor to the agency's budget in 2017, donating $350 million.

The US State Department said last month it would no longer fund UNRWA because it was "irredeemably flawed".

He added he was hopeful China, Japan, India and European countries would also contribute funds.

Krahenbuhl on Monday met Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit.

Arab countries "will not permit the dismantling of UNRWA", a statement by the League said.

Arab League member Jordan said in late August that it was organising a conference in aid of the Palestinian refugee agency for September 27 in New York.

UNRWA has provided essential aid to millions of Palestinians since it was established nearly 70 years ago, just after the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

The termination of funding by the US was welcomed by Israel but described as "cruel and irresponsible" by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee. — AFP