PHILADELPHIA (NOVEMBER 12, 2020) This week the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced that without immediate new funding it will run out of money and be unable to pay full salaries to its 28,000 staff beyond November. This funding crisis comes at a time when UNRWA staff are providing vital frontline assistance to Palestinian refugees at risk of COVID-19 infection. UNRWA is the primary health, education, and assistance provider to millions of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) -- a Quaker organization that has worked with Palestinians since supporting relief efforts following the 1948 War -- strongly condemned the decision. "The current funding crisis is a direct result of the Trump Administration's decision to cut all funding to UNRWA in 2018," said Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary of AFSC. "This action by the U.S. was a dangerous politicization of aid, cutting vital humanitarian assistance with the stated goal of punishing the Palestinian Authority. We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to ensure the UNRWA funding is restored."
AFSC and other faith based organizations have been calling for the funding to be restored since the cuts were made in 2018. Resumed funding would allow UNRWA to keep paying thousands of doctors, nurses, and health professionals and keep clinics open in refugee camps where COVID-19 is spreading. Without renewed funding, the health professionals who are critical to addressing the crisis caused by the pandemic will not be paid and care will be restricted.
"It is unconscionable for the U.S. to use frontline healthcare workers and the lives of Palestinian people to make a political statement," said Mike Merryman-Lotze, Palestine-Israel Program Director for AFSC. "It is critical that the U.S. act immediately to halt this entirely preventable crisis."