MIDDLE EAST

Canada pledges $62M aid for Palestinian refugee agency

Reuters Photo

Canada stepped up aid for Palestinian refugees on Friday, announcing $62.5 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose mission has suffered since Washington cut its help.

Canada will provide $62.5 million in aid for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Jordan, the Canadian International Development Ministry announced on Friday.

In a statement, Canadian International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said up to $50 million will be provided for over two years for Palestinian refugees through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The announcement comes after the U.S. State Department stated in September that Washington would "no longer commit funding" to UNRWA.

The U.S. had been UNRWA's largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million annually -- roughly one-quarter of the agency's overall budget.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

In September, the foreign ministers of Jordan, Sweden, Turkey, Japan, and Germany, as well as the EU foreign policy chief, held a ministerial meeting in New York in order to mobilize financial and political support for the agency.

Canada will also provide up to $12.5 million for Right to Play International, a Toronto-based education organization for children in need, according to the statement.

Around $40 million of Canada's funding "will contribute to meeting the basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of Palestinian refugees, especially women and children," the statement added.

"Furthermore, up to $10 million of Canada's support will provide emergency life-saving assistance to more than 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon, through UNRWA's Emergency Appeal for the Syria regional crisis," the statement said.

"This support will help to send hundreds of thousands of children to school, train teachers and support over a hundred health clinics," the statement quoted Bibeau.

"This new funding to UNRWA is urgently needed, and it will bring some predictability to the agency as the needs on the ground are increasing," she added.
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