The upcoming school year for Palestinian refugee children could be only one month long, unless states worldwide provide aid money, a UN agency warns. This comes after the US dramatically reduced its donations.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said that its lack of funds due to a cut in funding from the US could have serious consequences. For over half a million Palestinian students, the school year could end only a month after it begins, the agency warns.
UNRWA runs 711 schools that provide primary education to Palestinian children in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. These schools are scheduled to open in September but the fund received thus far will cover expenses until the end of the month, according to UN News.
Lack of funds due to US cut in financing
UNRWA's activities were hit hard by the US decision at the beginning of the year to reduce the funding for the agency by about 300 million dollars. This is the most substantial cut UNRWA has had to face since it was founded in 1949. The agency has been forced to cut its activities and provide assistance only to the most vulnerable.
UNRWA has received 238 million dollars in additional funding from around the world this year, but that money covers the services of the agency only until the end of September; another 217 million dollars would be necessary to ensure that the schools will remain open until the end of the year, agency sources say.
Education 'passport to dignity'
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness has said that, despite the lack of funds, the agency feels obliged to open its schools in September. "For Palestinians, an education is a passport to dignity. This is not a good outcome, but it's the best possible outcome because the alternative would have been terrible, particularly for the next generation of Palestine refugees,'' he said.
''We are doing everything in our power to work with the donor community to ensure that we can implement and honour our historic mandate and mission,'' added Gunness.
Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner-general of the agency, called on states that have pledged funds to transfer them as soon as possible, and on other states to consider donating to the cause.