Palestinian refugees face savage aid cuts
Palestinian refugees in Jordan are facing a humanitarian “catastrophe” amid a budget crisis that could deprive them of core education, healthcare and food security services.
Jordanian officials have warned that the financial shortfall could “deepen the humanitarian plight” of the Palestinians.
The country’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi recently met with UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl and announced the organisation faces a “dangerous financial deficit”.
Mr Safadi said the deficit threatens catastrophic consequences on refugees if it is not covered before its financial allocations run out.
UNRWA has faced a cash crisis since the United States, long its biggest donor, slashed funding to the agency, providing just $60 million of a promised $365 million this year.
US President Donald Trump withheld the aid after questioning its value and saying Washington would only provide more assistance if the Palestinians agreed to renew peace talks with Israel.
The largest ever reduction in UNRWA’s funding has cast doubts about the agency’s long-term outlook and has already begun to impact some services.
UN officials say it could mean that schools will not open at the start of the next academic year.
UNRWA operates around 700 schools, educating 500,000 refugee children in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
Jordan, which hosts the largest number of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East outside Palestinian territories, was engaged in intensive lobbying with donors.
Officials have also said they were concerned about any US drive to dismantle the agency as part of a vaunted Middle East peace plan that Washington has promised to unveil soon.
According to reports, the plan diverges from longstanding US support for a Palestinian state and backing for a full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.
“Jordan warns of the danger of touching the role of the UNRWA that should continue to provide its services under its international mandate,” a Jordanian foreign ministry statement said.
Mr Safadi said the international community must continue to shoulder its political and moral responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees under UN Security Council resolutions that maintain their right of return and compensation.
Among several disputes deadlocking Middle East peace talks is a demand that as many as five million Palestinians be granted the right to return to lands in Israel that they or their kin lost
Founded in 1949, UNRWA serves Palestinian refugees in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. It is funded mainly by voluntary contributions from UN member states.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist