Bethlehem, occupied West Bank – Palestinians living in refugee camps have expressed deep alarm over US threats to potentially cut funding for a relief agency tasked with providing aid and services to them.
For nearly 70 years, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has been the lifeline to the more than five million registered Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories and neighbouring countries.
It offers support in food supply, access to education, healthcare, social services and employment.
“Today, more than two-thirds of refugees are children who go to UNRWA schools. If the schools shut down, there will be a big problem,” Salah Ajarmeh, a 44-year-old living in Aida refugee camp outside of Bethlehem, told Al Jazeera.
“The refugee issue is a red line.”
The US is the largest contributor to UNRWA – in 2016, it donated more than $364m to the agency. It also provides the Palestinian Authority – the governmental body which administers pockets of the West Bank – with some $400m annually.
But on January 3, less than a month after prompting Palestinian anger and international outcry for naming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to Palestinians.
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