UN agency for Palestinian refugees launches strike in Jordan

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Thousands of employees of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees went on strike in Jordan on Sunday, shutting schools and health centers that provide services for more than two million people.

The strike demanding pay rises is being observed by around 7,000 workers, UNRWA spokesman Sami Mshamsha said, and comes as the agency faces an unprecedented financial crisis.

It has brought to a standstill work at UNRWA schools, clinics and centers providing social welfare to refugees across Jordan, Mshamsha said.

“We deplore this strike and we are worried about the impact it will have on the services provided to the refugees,” he said.

A union of UNRWA workers said the action that began Sunday morning was “open-ended” and all staff members were observing it.

Pupils and students should stay at home as UNRWA-run schools and universities would remain closed, it said.

More than two million Palestinians are registered as refugees with UNRWA in Jordan.

The agency runs 169 schools in the kingdom -- where some 120,000 students are enrolled -- as well as a faculty of science and educational arts, 25 primary healthcare centers and other services.

UNRWA was set up in 1949 after more than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the war surrounding Israel’s creation the previous year.

It provides vital schooling and medical services to some five million Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem.

In 2018, the US suspended and later cut all funding for UNRWA, causing a financial crisis that threatened to see its schools and hospitals closed.

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