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UN Palestinian refugee agency appeals for funds

By AFP - Sep 10,2018 - Last updated at Sep 10,2018

CAIRO — The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on Monday appealed for funds to tackle an unprecedented financial crisis caused by the US scrapping contributions.

“We still need $200 million [172 million euros] to tackle the deficit this year,” UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl told a news conference in Cairo.

“While UNRWA has experienced many types of crisis since it was created... in financial terms... this is the worst crisis ever faced,” he said.

The United States was the biggest contributor to the agency’s budget in 2017, donating 350 million dollars.

The US State Department said last month it would no longer fund UNRWA because it was “irredeemably flawed”.

To help plug the shortfall, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have all said they will contribute $50 million (43 million euros) each, Krahenbuhl said.

He added he was hopeful China, Japan, India and European countries would also contribute funds.

Krahenbuhl on Monday met Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit.

Arab countries “will not permit the dismantling of UNRWA”, a statement by the League said.

On Tuesday, Arab League states will meet in Cairo for a summit — attended by Krahenbuhl — devoted largely to UNRWA.

Arab League member Jordan said in late August that it was organising a conference in aid of the Palestinian refugee agency for September 27 in New York.

UNRWA has provided essential aid to millions of Palestinians since it was established nearly 70 years ago, just after the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

The termination of funding by the US was welcomed by Israel but described as “cruel and irresponsible” by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee.

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