United Nations seeks urgent aid for Palestinians after USA slashes funds

The US had been UNWRA's largest donor, supplying almost 30 percent of its budget. S., to withhold funds and demand reforms from the agency.

Among the pledging countries are Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France. It released $60 million so the agency wouldn't shut down but made clear that additional USA donations would be contingent on major reforms at the agency.

More than 90 countries were invited to participate in the Rome conference, which was attended by Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief.

"The challenge for us is to take a step forward on our responsibilities and ensure that Palestinian children can continue to have classrooms where they can go, hospitals where they can be treated and food on their table".

Speaking at the extraordinary conference to support UNRWA in Rome, Hamdallah said the financial commitments to be made during the conference will serve as a constituent part of aid to relieve the agency, which has been facing a financial crisis in recent months due in part to the cumulative decrease of funding.

On March 9, the Swedish mission to the United Nations said UNRWA's budget shortfall of 446 million dollars represented the "most challenging financial situation" since the agency's founding in 1949.

She also discussed the conflict between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, saying that "the two-state solution does not work, and we need to concentrate on the real problems, which are incitement by the Palestinian Authority, and financial support of terror".

Earlier on Thursday, Guterres said in a Twitter post that supporting UNRWA is an "investment in peace".

According to a World Bank report released on Thursday, humanitarian aid can only bring short-term relief to the isolated coastal enclave, which has been devastated by three Israel-Hamas wars and a suffocating blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

"The economy can not survive without being connected to the outside world", the World Bank said in a statement.

  • Rogelio Becker