Palestinian refugee children UNRWA school AHMAD ABDO/AFP/Getty Images

Trump’s Assault on Refugees

The consequences of the Trump administration's decision to stop funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East will be severe. Beyond reducing the agency’s capacity to deliver basic services to Palestinian refugees, it will threaten the region's already tenuous stability.

LONDON – The decision by US President Donald Trump’s administration to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has politicized humanitarian aid, threatens to add yet more fuel to one of the world’s most combustible conflicts, and jeopardizes the futures of a half-million Palestinian children and young people.

Originally created to deliver basic assistance to refugees displaced during the creation of the Israeli state, the UNWRA has provided health care, employment, and emergency food and shelter for displaced Palestinians since 1949. Today, nearly two million refugees receive emergency food and cash assistance from the organization, and each year millions use the 143 UNRWA-run health clinics.

But the majority of UNRWA’s budget goes towards educating children and young people, half of them in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and the rest in Gaza and the West Bank. UNRWA runs nearly 700 schools, serving more students than any other UN organization. Some 75% of the population of the Gaza Strip receives some form of UNRWA assistance, and 60% of Gaza’s children from first to ninth grade attend UNRWA schools.

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