NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland said: "Threatening to cut aid for political purposes to millions of civilians who need it is what we've come to expect of undemocratic regimes, not the world's biggest humanitarian donor. Cutting funds to UNRWA will achieve nothing except push millions of Palestinians further into poverty and despair, taking food from their tables, the roofs above their heads, and the schools they send their children to. Other humanitarian organisations simply do not have the capacity to pick up the pieces if this decision goes through. And it would all fall on Israel, as the occupying power, as well as the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, to do so."
NRC works closely with UNRWA in Gaza, providing psychosocial support to traumatised children in its schools, and legal assistance to refugees whose homes destroyed in the 2014 war are being reconstructed. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, NRC works with UNRWA to protect Palestinian communities at risk of forcible transfer. Cutting UNRWA funding would undo years of work with a generation living under constant siege and recurring conflict.
In Syria, cuts to UNRWA would further exacerbate the situation for Palestinian refugees there, 95 per cent of whom require humanitarian assistance, denying them of their only access to lifesaving aid. It would also have devastating consequences in Jordan and Lebanon, where UNRWA is the single most important provider of assistance and services to Palestinian refugees, many of whom already live in abject poverty.
The US is UNRWA's largest donor, contributing US$364m of funding in 2017, followed by the European Union. Together they contribute almost 40 per cent of UNRWA's total funding for its core programme budget.
“Cutting much-needed aid to refugees because Palestinian leaders have positions the US disagrees with is outrageous," Egeland said. "We call on the US authorities to not follow through with this threat, which would tarnish its reputation and undermine its role as a humanitarian donor."
NRC has spokespersons in the US, Jerusalem and Amman for interviews.