UNRWA says US aid a relief, hopes for more

A view of the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, October 20, 2010. (Photo: NYTimes)
AMMAN — The US administration’s decision to restore funding to UNRWA came as a relief to the organization, as they expressed their hope for "more to come."اضافة اعلان

"We welcome the current US administration's decision to restore a part of the funding, however, we hope more will come," Tamara Refai, an UNRWA spokesperson told Jordan News

The $150m pledged by, President Joe Biden's administration came at a time when UNRWA was having trouble raising funds.

"Our most generous donors could not provide as they used to before the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, most donors started looking inwards", said Refai. 

"We see this resumption as a symbolic move in support of Palestinians from the current administration", the spokesperson added. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement "US foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important US interests and values. It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability. It also aligns with the values and interests of our allies and partners. The United States is committed to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways in the immediate term, which is important in its own right, but also as a means to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, UNRWA was faced with more challenges as the organization was expected to provide Palestinian refugees with health, education and social services. 

"Refugees looked at us as citizens look at their states because we provide statelike services. We were facing growing challenges during the COVID-19 and refugees needed more to face the repercussions of the pandemic and the growing impoverishment", added Refai. 

Minister of foreign affairs, Ayman Safadi, welcomed the US administration decision calling it a "great step". 

In a tweet, the top diplomat said "We highly appreciate US decision announced by Secretary Blinken to resume its financial assistance to UNRWA. This support will help the agency maintain its vital humanitarian, educational & health services to Palestinian refugees. Great step."

In 2018, the Trump administration suspended its financial aid to UNRWA, a move that affected the organization and the services it provided to 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated; "Israel's position is that the organization in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution.”

UNRWA was founded after the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflicts and established by UN General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) in 1949. The agency began operations on May 1, 1950.

According to the organization's website, in the absence of a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until June 30, 2023.