JERUSALEM/GAZA - The head of the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees appealed on Wednesday for world donations after the United States withheld about half its planned funding for the organization, a move he said risks instability in the region.
Washington said on Tuesday it would provide $60 million to the UN Relief and Welfare Agency while keeping back a further $65 million for now. The US State Department said UNRWA needed to make unspecified reforms.
Palestinians, already angered by US President Donald Trump's Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, denounced the decision, which could deepen hardship in the Gaza Strip where UNRWA helps much of its population of 2 million.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said he would appeal to other donor nations for money and launch "a global fundraising campaign" aimed at keeping the agency's schools and clinics for refugees open through 2018 and beyond.
"At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip," he said in a statement.
Krähenbühl said 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools could be affected by the fund cut, as well as Palestinian access to primary health care, but he pledged to keep facilities open through 2018 and beyond.
"The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization," he said.