Palestinians blast UN relief agency's downsizing plans

Published 13.07.2018 00:00

Dozens of Palestinians and employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) demonstrated outside the UNRWA's Gaza headquarters yesterday to protest planned reductions to the agency's services.

Established in 1949, the UNRWA provides essential services to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, who have been displaced by Israeli occupation and conflict.

"We are protesting today… to send a message to the UNRWA that its plans to dispense with some employees are unacceptable," Amal Batch, deputy head of the UNRWA employees' union, which helped organize yesterday's demonstration, told Anadolu Agency (AA). "UNRWA's downsizing plans will not solve its ongoing financial crisis," she said.

Batch went on to point out that UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl had earlier promised to maintain the agency's staff and the many services it provides to Palestinian refugees. She urged Krahenbuhl to keep his promise and refrain from sacking agency staff members, especially those involved in crucial relief programs.

In an earlier statement, the employees' union asserted that the agency had canceled one of its emergency programs last month, threatening the food aid provided to some 1.3 million refugees in Gaza. The union also said that the UNRWA had terminated the temporary contracts of "dozens" of its engineers within the last four months.

Earlier this year, the U.S. suspended $65 million of $125 million in planned funding for the UNRWA after the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership rejected any U.S. role in the Palestine-Israel peace process.

The move by Ramallah came in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last December to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

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