Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2018 / 16:20 pm
Catholic aid leaders and others have requested that the White House reconsider its decision to withhold $65 million designated for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Leaders of 21 global aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Refugee Services/USA, signed a Jan. 24 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. leaders, expressing concern that cuts in humanitarian aid will have “dire consequences” on emergency food and medical aid in the region.
“We are deeply concerned by the humanitarian consequences of this decision on life-sustaining assistance to children, women and men in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” reads the letter, posted online by the Palestine News Agency.
Giulia McPherson, Interim Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Services told CNA, “As a UN partner that also serves Palestinian refugees through some of our programming, we felt compelled to join this effort.”
“We know that places like this are strapped for resources, having taken in millions of refugees in recent years due to war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. When resources are taken away for a specific population, such as UNRWA, the impacts can be felt throughout the region,” McPherson continued.
The letter said the decision “impacting humanitarian aid to civilians is not based on any assessment of need, but rather designed both to punish Palestinian political leaders and to force political concessions from them.”
“This is...a dangerous and striking departure from U.S. policy on international humanitarian assistance,” it read.
The United States will provide $60 million in 2018 to UN relief efforts for Palestinian refugees. According to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, the Trump Administration will withhold an additional $65 million for future consideration, until it determines whether UNRWA has made reforms that have not yet been specified.