UNRWA, the United Nations agency for “Palestinian refugees” has nearly overcome a funding crisis caused by US President Donald Trump cancelling the US aid contribution, agency chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl said Thursday, according to AFP.
UNRWA had counted on a budget of $1.2 billion for 2018 but faced a gap of $446 million when the Trump administration announced it was cutting support.
UNRWA responded to its "unprecedented" financial pressures by seeking support across UN member-states and raised an additional $382 million, bringing the shortfall for the year down to just $64 million, Kraehenbuehl told reporters in Geneva.
He said he hoped the gap could still be trimmed further in the coming weeks.
"I'll be very honest in saying, I don't think many people believed that we would be able to overcome a $446 million shortfall at the beginning of the year," said Kraehenbuehl, who took charge of UNRWA in 2014.
The United States, the largest single contributor to UNRWA, announced in August that it would end its $350 million a year funding for the agency, describing the organization as an “irredeemably flawed operation”.
That announcement followed a previous US announcement in January that it would cut some of its funding to UNRWA due to a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of the organization, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.
Kraehenbuehl on Thursday credited the European Union and especially four Gulf countries with increasing support for UNRWA after the US cut.
Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates upped their support to $50 million each to offset Trump's cuts, the UNRWA chief said. Kuwait announced just this week a contribution of an additional $42,100,000 to UNRWA.
The agency's 2019 budget has not been finalized, but Kraehenbuehl stressed it was important "to preserve those new levels of funding".
Created in 1949, UNRWA supplies aid to more than three million of the five million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and territories assigned to the Palestinian Authority.
However, it is also notorious for its anti-Israel activities. During the 2014 counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge, Hamas rockets were discovered inside a school building run by UNRWA.
Likewise, a booby-trapped UNRWA clinic was detonated, killing three IDF soldiers. Aside from the massive amounts of explosives hidden in the walls of the clinic, it was revealed that it stood on top of dozens of terror tunnels, showing how UNRWA is closely embedded with Hamas.
In a more recent incident, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza expressed his supportfor the anti-Israel marches along the Israel-Gaza border and pledged that the organization’s medical centers will provide care for “Palestinian refugees” who might sustain injuries during them.