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Despite generous US donations, UNRWA deficit persists

1. Picture
UNRWA’s Jordan Field Office. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Despite a generous US donation to UNRWA, the agency which provides essential healthcare, education and other services to millions of Palestinian refugees, said it will remain short of money this year.اضافة اعلان

Last Friday, US President Joe Biden announced from Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank an additional $201 million aid to UNRWA.

The White House said the new contribution strengthens Washington’s status as UNRWA’s largest donor, following the arrival of more than $618 million during the Biden era.

UNRWA suffers from a chronic budget deficit, which it blames on the shortfall of promised contributions from donor nations. UNRWA, which employs 30,000 employees, announced a $1.6 billion budget for this year.

The agency provides basic services, including education and healthcare to 5.7 million Palestinian refugees scattered across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The US estimates that more than 2.3 million Palestinian refugees live in poverty, partly caused by economic hardships and health hazards in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNRWA Spokesperson Tamara Al-Rifai told Jordan News that the US contributions place Washington back on top of UNRWA’s donors list, a spot the US commanded for several years until former US President Donald Trump cut aid to the international agency.

“UNRWA greatly appreciates the American support,” she said. “The US has returned to the first place among the countries supporting UNRWA.”

Under President Biden, the US allocated $618 million to UNRWA in 2021 and 2022, “meaning more than $300 million for each of the two years,” according to Rifai.

She explained that UNRWA’s budget for 2022 is $1.6 billion, which covers all basic services such as education, health, social protection, and emergency aid resulting from the crises in Syria and Gaza.

“Efforts are still continuing to mobilize the full amount required for this year,” Rifai said. “And we still expect a deficit of about $100 million.”

UNRWA’s media advisor Adnan Abu Hasna told Jordan News that the American aid to the agency “is very important, not only in terms of financial support, but also in terms of political support”.

“There was an indication of the great role that UNRWA plays in providing services and human development to millions of Palestinian refugees and achieving stability in the region”, he said.

Abu Hasna asserted that there “will be a financial deficit that will not be overcome, despite the US aid”.

He said to ease the burdens of the deficit, UNRWA was trying its best to increase its donor base, and “we have different partnerships with UN organizations, zakat institutions, and the private sector as well as adjusting expenditure within UNRWA”.

Rafiq Al-Khirfan, the director-general of the Department of Palestinian affairs, told Jordan News that UNRWA has gone through difficult times, including a $465 million deficit recorded during the Trump administration in 2018.

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