UNRWA limps ahead after years of Trump administration strain | Refugees Information

UNRWA limps ahead after years of Trump administration strain | Refugees Information

Seham al-Laham is anticipating her first little one.

However what ought to be a contented event has been overshadowed by an anxious watch for the United Nations company for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) to cowl her bills to offer beginning at a government-run hospital in Amman, Jordan.

The 20-year-old Palestinian refugee has been diligent about making it to all her appointments on the medical service centres in Jabal el-Hussein Camp, the place she lives, however “the UNRWA-run clinics have been dealing with shortages in medication, and lab gear”, al-Laham mentioned.

“Now we have been listening to of the monetary issues dealing with UNRWA, and it has left me anxious about my supply and the medical providers supplied to me and my new child,” she informed Al Jazeera.

UNRWA offers life-saving providers, together with important main healthcare, by 25 well being clinics throughout refugee camps in Jordan.

However an unprecedented monetary disaster has put UNRWA’s vital healthcare providers in jeopardy – and even United States President Joe Biden’s latest promise to revive help to Palestinians is not going to clear up the issue in the long run, consultants say.

The US has lengthy been the only largest donor to the company, contributing about 30 p.c (practically $365m) of UNRWA’s annual price range, making it significantly susceptible to the political whims of various US administrations.

In 2018, the Trump administration ceased funding for UNRWA, plunging the organisation into monetary instability. Washington attributed the reduce to a necessity for unspecified reforms because it pushed Palestinians to resume peace talks with Israel.

“The largest problem the establishment faces is that it’s financially unstable except there’s a world mandate that gives for long-term funding,” mentioned Tareq Baconi, the Worldwide Disaster Group’s senior analyst on Palestine and Israel.

“The Trump administration has proven that this isn’t solely one thing that can be utilized punitively in a political manner, but in addition that the organisation has turn out to be overly depending on the US.”

‘Very tough’

UNRWA wants greater than $1bn yearly to handle its common, emergency and life-saving providers to roughly 5.7 million Palestinian refugees within the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Whereas there have been some constructive indicators that Biden’s administration could resume the funding Washington stopped in 2018, this is not going to be ample to cowl the company’s $200m price range deficit for 2021.

On February 2, US State Division spokesman Ned Value mentioned the Trump administration’s determination to chop help to Palestinians was counterintuitive, including that the brand new management would restore monetary help.

“The suspension of help to the Palestinian individuals has neither produced political progress, nor secured concessions from the Palestinian management. It has solely harmed harmless Palestinians,” Value mentioned throughout a information briefing.

US President Joe Biden’s administration mentioned this month that it could restore help to Palestinians [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]

“The US will reinvigorate our humanitarian management and work to galvanise the worldwide neighborhood to satisfy its humanitarian obligations, together with to the Palestinian individuals. That is one thing we’re engaged on in a short time to revive,” he added.

UNRWA spokeswoman Tamara al-Rifai mentioned she welcomed the announcement, however the company’s monetary state of affairs nonetheless can be “very tough” this yr. “We anticipate the incidence of a funding disaster as of March this yr, and on a bigger scale, the anticipated deficit for this yr could result in the monetary collapse of the company,” she mentioned.

“We’re considering the prospect of re-engaging the brand new US administration, so we anticipate a barely higher revenue than it was in 2020, however this slight improve in revenue won’t be able to cowl the large liabilities of the company.”

Refugee situation

Based in 1949 after the Nakba – or disaster – that led to the exodus of roughly 700,000 Palestinians, UNRWA right now offers Palestinian refugees with training, well being, and social providers.

Palestinian officers imagine the US determination to chop funding to UNRWA was an effort to pre-empt any future last standing negotiations on the fitting of return for Palestinian refugees. This is without doubt one of the negotiations’ foremost sticking factors, together with Jerusalem and borders of a future state.

The very concept of Palestinians being refugees was what spurred the diplomatic onslaught from the White Home, former Brookings Establishment professional Hady Amr wrote in 2018; particularly, the power of stateless individuals to go on their refugee standing to future generations underneath worldwide regulation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lengthy pushed for UNRWA to be abolished and advocated for its duties to be handed over to the UN’s refugee company (UNHCR).

“There’s a persistent problem that the organisation is dealing with by way of viability, and the extra the political actuality for the Palestinian query will get marginalised and challenged, the tougher it’s for UNRWA to do its job,” Baconi mentioned.

Future unsure

Whereas the organisation is badly wounded from years of price range cuts, it has stayed intact – regardless of the most effective efforts of key Trump administration officers, comparable to former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

In 2018, Haley claimed UNRWA exaggerated the variety of Palestinian refugees and mentioned the company wanted to hold out reforms. “You’re the truth that, sure, there’s an limitless variety of refugees that proceed to get help, however extra importantly, the Palestinians proceed to bash America,” she mentioned on the time.

Kushner’s household basis has made donations to Israeli settlements and has a longstanding relationship with Netanyahu. International Coverage reported in 2018 that in an effort to sabotage UNRWA’s work, Kushner tried to strain Jordan to strip two million Palestinians residing there of their refugee standing.

The United Arab Emirates, which final yr signed a US-brokered normalisation take care of Israel, drastically decreased its funding for UNRWA – from $51.8m in 2019 to $1m in 2020. Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Bahrain additionally slashed help to the company, however it didn’t present actual figures.

UNRWA offers help and providers to about 5.7 million Palestinian refugees within the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

An Emirati authorities official informed the Reuters information company this week that the UAE doesn’t intend to revive funding till steps are taken to handle it extra successfully. “We’re in dialogue with UNRWA’s management on the best way to improve effectiveness of help,” mentioned Minister of State for Worldwide Cooperation Reem al-Hashimy.

“The query is whether or not the Gulf will attempt to dismantle UNRWA, and whether or not the US will go alongside [with it],” mentioned Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and senior authorized adviser to the Palestinian negotiating group throughout Palestine’s bid for UN membership in 2010-12.

Whether or not Washington will in truth resume help to Palestinians additionally stays to be seen, Hassan informed Al Jazeera.

“The Biden administration has not resumed help to UNRWA and didn’t point out the company by identify. The cash could go to different worldwide NGOs or UNHCR.”

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