Further US aid cuts threaten to deepen Gaza humanitarian emergency

Growth monitoring at Ard El Insan, Khan Younis

The US State Department announced on Friday 24 August that it is cutting an additional $200m of funding for charities providing medical assistance, food aid, employment assistance and other humanitarian services in the occupied Palestinian territory.

One of the organisations affected by the cuts is Ard El Insan, a local NGO in Gaza, which had been receiving US aid funding through the International Mercy Corps (IMC) to provide nutritional services to children but is now having to drastically scale back work at its Gaza City clinic. Clinic manager Safaa Isleem told The Guardian:

“We’ve been badly affected … There was a project funded by IMC that was supposed to last for five years. It was supporting our work on malnourishment, wasting, rickets, anaemia. Last year, it started for 6,000 patients aged 0 to five. The main staff, including myself, have lost more than 50% of their salaries. This was the major project we were working on. We’ve reduced the working hours.”

Ard El Insan’s vital nutrition and child health programmes are also supported by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Thanks to the ongoing generous support of our donors, this programme continues its increasingly vital work.

The latest US aid cuts follow the country’s decision in January to dramatically reduce its financial support for UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services and humanitarian support to five million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory. These cuts have deepened an already-serious budgetary crisis for the agency, endangering its vital programmes of support – including healthcare and education services – across the region, and representing an “existential threat” according to UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness.

Foreign Policy magazine has this week reported that the US’s former support for UNRWA – $350m a year, roughly one third of the agency’s annual budget – is set to be cancelled entirely.

This news comes at a time of unprecedented crisis in Gaza. The cumulative effects of 11 years of illegal closure, economic and institutional de-development and growing political and functional separation between the West Bank and Gaza have been devastating:

The cuts also come amid reports that the US intends to attempt to take unilateral measures to defy the international legal consensus on the issue of Palestinian refugees. The Washington Post this week reported:

“In an announcement to be made within the next several weeks, the administration plans to voice its disapproval of the way the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, spends the funds and to call for a sharp reduction in the number of Palestinians recognized as refugees, dropping it from more than 5 million, including descendants, to fewer than a tenth of that number, or those still alive from when the agency was created seven decades ago, according to officials familiar with the decision.”

MAP’s Chief Executive Aimee Shalan, reacting to these latest reports, said:

“To cut vital aid at a time of unprecedented humanitarian crisis,  in a calculated move to undermine the legal status which protects millions of long-term dispossessed Palestinian refugees across the region, is inhumane and should be condemned by anyone who has a sense of moral responsibility.

“The rest of the international community, including our Government in the UK, must be vocal in their opposition, and take urgent action to prevent further suffering. We must work together to counteract the rapid and deliberate erosion of the international legal consensus that underpins Palestinians’ rights to health and dignity.”

The support of individuals like you is essential to allowing MAP to continue its work in the West Bank, Gaza and the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon. Please consider making a donation today.

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