WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday that the United States will contribute 60 million dollars in new aid for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees.
"This contribution will provide critical services such as health care and improve the life of 4.7 million Palestinians," the chief US diplomat said during ceremonies marking World Refugee Day.
The State Department said the funds will support "reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools in Jordan, Syria, and the West Bank, an afterschool program for refugee children in Lebanon, and a referral system to help refugees facing gender-based violence."
The new aid comes on top of 95 million dollars already given this year. The State Department said the total US contribution will amount to 225 million dollars to UNRWA by the end of 2010.
Washington contributed 267 million dollars to UNRWA in 2009.
The annual UNRWA budget is about 600 million dollars, but it "currently faces a shortfall of 161 million dollars, including 91 million dollars for core expenses," the State Department said.
These include salaries for teachers educating nearly 500,000 Palestinian refugee children across the region, it said.
Eric Schwartz, the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, echoed the concerns.
"We are deeply concerned over adequate resources for UNRWA. They are experiencing steep and significant funding challenges," he said.
"We are working... to try, frankly, to get other governments who expressed concern about the fate of Palestinian refugees to provide assistance more generously," he added.
Clinton said the United States is by far the world's biggest contributor of aid to refugees, with 1.74 billion dollars set aside in 2009.
She said refugees are "a symbol of all of the challenges we face." The United States has welcomed some 2.5 million refugees since 1980.
© AFP 2013