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Canada boosts aid to Palestinian refugee agency following Trump cuts

In this Tuesday, May 22, 2018 photo, Sarah, right, a Palestinian refugee from Syria participates in an English lesson at the Jafna Elementary school, run by the U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, in the eastern Bekaa Valley town of Taalabaya, Le
AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Canada has pledged almost $40 million to UNRWA as agency struggles to stay afloat following U.S. budget cuts

Canada stepped up its aid for Palestinian refugees, announcing on Friday that it will contribute $38 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the wake of severe U.S. cuts to the organization.

Following the United State’s controversial decision to stop funding for what it calls the “irredeemably flawed” organization, the agency which supports some five million Palestinian refugees in the region has been thrown into crisis.

The US had long been UNRWA’s largest single donor, until President Donald Trump’s administration in August officially put an end to its $350 million a year funding to the agency.

According to the Canadian government, their contribution is to be spread over two years. The bulk of the funding will go to "meeting the basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of Palestinian refugees," Ottawa said in a statement.

Another almost $8 million will be used to provide "emergency life-saving assistance to more than 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon," it said.

In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration reversed cuts to Canada's Palestinian aid made by his predecessor.

Canada said it "exercises enhanced due diligence" for all aid for Palestinians including "strong anti-terrorism provisions in funding agreements."

US President Donald Trump, as well as Israel, opposes how the agency operates and how the number of refugees is calculated.

AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra, File

The organization was created in 1949 to assist Palestinians fleeing their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment. The mission funds various education, health and welfare services for some five million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In the Gaza Strip, UNRWA says more than 200,000 Palestinians attend its schools.

At the end of September, UNRWA announced that their Palestinian schools and health centers in Gaza and Syria could close unless $185 million in funding is found to make up for a severe budget shortfall, the agency chief warned.

Earlier in the month, staff at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees went on strike in the Gaza Strip to protest against job losses and US funding cuts.

The one-day strike closed more than 250 UNRWA schools in Gaza, as well as medical centres and food aid distribution points, the union said.

More than 250 jobs have been cut in Gaza and the West Bank so far, while hundreds of full-time roles have become part-time.

AFP contributed to this report.



Yea Canada. See where your money goes when Parliament is burned

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