UNRWA: There is no alternative to support Palestinian refugees

UNRWA: There is no alternative to support Palestinian refugees

NEW YORK: There is no alternative on the table if the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency is dismantled – as the US has pushed for – the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said yesterday.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said this a day before a pledging conference in New York in which the agency will seek funding from donors to fill its US$1.2 billion budget.

Krahenbuhl said that “nobody else has yet come up with an idea of how you replace us if you unplug the UNRWA model.”

“We have 280,000 students in [the] Gaza Strip. To which schools will they go if ours close?” he added.

UNRWA operates in Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. It has a mandate from the UN General Assembly, which is made up of 193 nations.

The pledging conference is taking place on the same day as a US-organised economic workshop in Bahrain, which aims to stimulate investment in the Palestinian territories as part of the Middle East peace plan promised by US President Donald Trump.

Jason Greenblatt, one of the key figures in the long-awaited peace plan, has called UNRWA a “band-aid” for the real issues in the region.

But Palestinian leaders have rejected the economic plan, suggesting it is tantamount to accepting economic investment in exchange for dropping any goal of having their own state.

The 2019 budget would cover operations at 700 schools attended by half a million children, health centres that receive 8.5 million visits every year, and social and emergency work.

After the US pulled out, the European Union became the highest donor, followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia.

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PalestinePierre KrahenbuhlRefugeesUNRWA