US cut $300 million of UNRWA's income this year, leaving the UN agency facing a $446 million budget deficit
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday that UNRWA has dramatically reduced its budget shortfall despite US funding cuts after Gulf and EU contributions.
"You are all aware how difficult this year has been for UNRWA in particular following the unexpected decision by the US to cut $300 million this year of UNRWA's income," commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl told a news conference in Jordan.
At the start of 2018, the UN agency faced a $446 million budget deficit, he said.
But after mobilising to tackle the unprecedented financial crisis caused by the US cuts, "we have now reduced the shortfall... to $21 million", he added.
"This is a very encouraging result at the end of a lot of work," he told reporters after meeting with the agency's advisory commission in Sweimeh on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea.
Krahenbuhl thanked in particular Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, saying they had helped plug the deficit by contributing $50 million each.
Their combined contribution of $200 million "is almost half of the total amount that we mobilised this year", said Krahenbuhl, adding that aid also poured in from the European Union.
The United States, which was by far the biggest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), announced in August that it would no longer fund the agency.
The administration of President Donald Trump has backed Israel in accusing UNRWA of perpetuating the Middle East conflict by perpetuating the idea that millions of Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to homes in what is now Israel.
Aside from cutting funds to UNRWA, the Trump administration has also cut $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians for projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Set up after Israel's creation in 1948, UNRWA has provided aid to millions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.