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Sat 10 Feb 2018 05:28 PM

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Kuwait pledges more, but UN Palestinian agency struggles after US cuts contributions

Kuwait is the only country that has offered to increase donations to keep the agency afloat

Kuwait pledges more, but UN Palestinian agency struggles after US cuts contributions
The flag of Palestine waves in front of the White House on December 08 2017 in Washington DC on the margin of a protest against US President Donald Trumps declaration of Jerusalem as Israels capitalThe UN Security Council was meeting Friday in an emergency session to discuss Trumps move which has drawn near universal condemnation including from United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres AFP PHOTO mari matsuri Photo credit: MARI MATSURIAFPGetty Images

One month after the Trump administration announced a drastic funding cut to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, only one country, Kuwait, has stepped forward to offer additional funding, senior UNRWA officials said Friday.

The United States announced in January that it would give $60 million to UNRWA -- a fraction of the more than $350 million annual contribution that it has previously provided to the agency's budget.

Kuwait stepped in to contribute $900,000 and about 15 donor countries, including Sweden and Japan, decided to speed up their donations to keep UNRWA afloat, said UNRWA's representative in New York Peter Mulrean.

But Mulrean told reporters at UN headquarters that the agency was facing an "existential financial crisis" as it seeks to fill the gap from the US funding cut.

The United States is the biggest single donor to UNRWA, which provides schools and health clinics to 5.3 million refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Last month, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States would not provide aid to the Palestinians until they agree "to come back to the negotiation table" and reach a peace deal with Israel.

"The US has not yet explained to us the rationale behind its decision on the $60 million," Mulrean said, adding that Washington had not presented any concerns about reforms.

In an interview to Voice of America, Haley said UNRWA needed to be reformed, because they consider "any Palestinian as a refugee" and "what they're teaching in schools is not necessarily the right way to have things run."

UNRWA has been repeatedly accused of promoting anti-Israel sentiment in schools, a charge it has flatly rejected.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will attend a ministerial-level donors' conference for UNRWA to be held next month in Geneva to fill the gap in funding, but it remains unclear if the United States will attend.

UNRWA's director for the West Bank, Scott Anderson, said all of the agency's services remain up and running for the time being, but that the decision had left many Palestinians anxious.

"People are frightened and concerned about what this means for them, their families and their future," he said

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