UN agency eyes $1.2 bln budget for Palestinians despite US cuts

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The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Tuesday appealed to nations to help it maintain a $1.2-billion budget in 2019 after it was hit last year by the withdrawal of US funding.

The organization, known as UNRWA, was able to fully fund a budget of the same amount in 2018, despite a dramatic initial shortfall when the administration of US President Donald Trump announced it was withdrawing nearly all support.

“The campaign last year was successful,” agency chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl told reporters in Geneva.

“We closed the entirety of the shortfall, which was an almost existential shortfall of $446 million, ... thanks to the remarkable and generous mobilization of member states” and others, he said.

The US, which was previously UNRWA’s largest contributor, last year cut a full $300 million in funding to UNRWA, and has said it will not repeat the $60 million it did provide.

In the void, the European Union, followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia were the biggest donors, with a total of 40 governments providing funds to the UN agency.

Kraehenbuehl told reporters he had come to Geneva to appeal to governments to repeat last year’s “extremely generous contributions” and allow the vital core services and life-saving humanitarian aid for some 5.4 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East to continue.

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