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HIAS Statement on Proposed UNRWA Cuts

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SILVER SPRING, Md.The Trump Administration is preparing to announce that it will soon cut all U.S support to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.

HIAS opposes any moves to abruptly cut U.S support for UNRWA without a thoughtful transition plan. The humanitarian consequences of  such cuts will likely be dire. UNRWA’s life-saving support helps give families access to healthcare, education, and emergency food assistance.

In response to this decision, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield issued the following statement:

“Wielding humanitarian aid as a weapon in order to achieve political concessions is unconscionable, particularly when it could result in greater regional instability. Abruptly cutting off humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities, especially when no back up plan is in place, is a recipe for disaster.”

The United States has long been the largest individual donor to UNRWA, giving $360 million in 2017. But the Trump Administration has been critical of the agency and how it spends its funds, and has already blocked aid to UNRWA earlier this year. The Administration also wants a dramatic reduction in the number of Palestinians who are recognized as refugees.

Hetfield continued, "The United States, other leaders of the international community, and regional actors should do more to promote a thoughtful dialogue on finding durable solutions for Palestinian refugees who have been stuck in a political quagmire for too long.”

In January 2018, HIAS signed onto a letter with other leading humanitarian organizations, urging the Trump Administration to not reduce funding for UNRWA. HIAS will continue to speak out against any Administration efforts to abruptly terminate U.S. support for UNRWA’s mission and work.