The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has been knocking on doors seeking funds after losing a major chunk of US funding. Children in Palestine will bear the brunt of the gap left by the US.

Palestinian employee of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) hold a sign during a protest against a US decision to cut aid, in Gaza City January 29, 2018.
Palestinian employee of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) hold a sign during a protest against a US decision to cut aid, in Gaza City January 29, 2018. (Reuters Archive)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has been looking for additional funding to make up a $200 million shortfall caused by the United States' cut in funding. 

The UNRWA was founded in 1949 after the first Arab-Israel war, which led to 700,000 Palestinians being forced to leave their homes or flee. It helps around five million Palestinian refugees, a figure that includes descendants of those displaced by the fighting. 

The fund collected more than $1.1 billion in aid in 2017 from nearly 100 sources, including individuals and NGOs. 

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees' (UNRWA) donor list.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees' (UNRWA) donor list. ()

Over the past five years, the UNRWA received more than $6.1 billion in funding from donors and more than $1.8 billion (or almost 30 percent) of that money came from the United States. 

Additional funding from 25 states 

US President Donald Trump and the state department's decision to “no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation” means the US has provided just $60 million of the promised $365 million for 2018.

The move has forced some Gulf states, Norway, Turkey, and Canada to step in with an additional total of $200 million to help meet a $446 million budget deficit for 2018. 

However, UNRWA’s planned budget is over a billion dollars for 2018. So the additional $200 million still fell short of its budget goal, which goes towards meeting the nutritional needs of children, keeping schools afloat in Gaza, the West Bank and other parts of the Middle East where Palestinian refugees reside.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have already announced that they will each provide an additional $50 million for the UNRWA, the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said, adding that Japan, India and China had also provided new or increased support.

Whereas the US has cut its funding to the UNRWA, seven countries — Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany and Russia — have transferred early funds while four (Belgium, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Ireland) have pledged to do so soon.

This is the full list of donor countries and their additional pledges.

UNRWA still falls short of $200 million

The UNRWA says it has established a senior team dedicated specifically to finding ways to meet the $200 million deficit. but more than three months have passed and the agency is still looking for donors. 

It won't be easy to fill the void that Washington has left as over the last few years the US donated $380.5 million, $368.4 million, and $364.2 million 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively.

Krahenbuehl tried drumming up support at an Arab League meeting in Cairo a few weeks ago while adding that not much has changed in the last three months. 

"We still need approximately $200 million to close this year's shortfall...We will knock on every door to make sure we get the necessary support," he said

He also said he was hoping other Gulf states would offer further contributions, and seek to mobilise European partners in the coming weeks as well as campaigning for private donations. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies