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Schooling of 122,000 students at stake as UNRWA spending last pennies

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Apr 27,2018 - Last updated at Apr 27,2018

Youths take part in a run in Wadi Seer to ‘protect the rights and dignity of Palestinian refugees’ as part of an UNRWA campaign (Photo courtesy of UNRWA)

AMMAN — Spokesperson of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Sami Mshasha on Wednesday said that the agency may stop providing its services in all of its operating areas in September due to its chronic financial crisis, affecting the nearly 2 million refugees currently based in Jordan, including 122,000 school children.  

Reporting to Palestinian media, Mshasha said that the $200 million recently received by UNRWA “will only be enough to cover several months of service, and the financial crisis will recur in September unless something is done to cover the deficit and provide regular contribution to UNRWA.”

“UNRWA suffers from an unprecedented financial crisis, and in the absence of coverage we will not be able to provide our health, education and relief service to the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees registered with the agency,” the official said. 

Asked about the impact of UNWRA’s financial crisis in the Kingdom, Director of UNRWA operations in Jordan Roger Davies told The Jordan Times that “at stake is the education of 122,000 children enrolled in 171 schools around the country, as well as the education of around 4,000 young men and women enrolled in our two vocational centres and teachers training college”.

“They will not be able to attend to schools and colleges if we are unable to pay the teachers,” Davies stressed. 

In a recent donors’ meeting in Brussels, UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl said that the agency may not open its schools in the next schoolyear “as a result of its most serious deficit in its 50-year history”.

In addition, the official stressed that “food subsidies to around one million refugees in the Gaza Strip may stop as of June if UNRWA is unable to collect $200 million after US President Donald Trump slashed $350 million in US aid to the humanitarian organisation.”

Although not officially declared by the US administration, the cuts come after the Palestinian leadership refused to meet US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the region and rejected any future role for the US in the peace process following US President Donald Trump’s decision in December last year to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, Trump said: “When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands — that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

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