Students at United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) wave Palestinian flags during a protest against U.S. move to cut funding for UNRWA Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

America Shuts the Schoolhouse Door on Refugees

The US has decided to withhold more than half of its planned funding for the UNRWA – $65 million of the $125 million earmarked for the agency. The move, which has been called a death sentence for the agency, will deal a devastating blow to efforts to confront the education emergency that the world already faces.

LONDON – No international institution has done as much for children’s schooling on the ground for as long as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). And yet, no international organization has suffered an overnight funding cut as devastating as the one UNRWA now faces, after 70 years of serving the displaced and the desolate.

Today, some 60% of elementary- and middle-school children in Gaza attend UNRWA schools, their only schooling alternative being madrasas. Since Palestinian refugees do not enjoy legal protections or access to basic services under the Refugee Convention of 1951, those living elsewhere also rely on UNRWA schools. More than half of the 525,000 Palestinian refugees UNRWA supports live in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Yet the United States has now decided to withhold more than half of its planned funding for UNRWA – $65 million of $125 million, which is already far less than the $364 million delivered last year. The move will deal a powerful blow to efforts to confront the education emergency the world currently faces.

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