Gaza has long dealt with lockdown. Karama Fadel is an English teacher, who has never left the Gaza Strip in her life, and the coronavirus pandemic has scotched her scholarship in the U.S. Meantime, Mohammed Abu Matar uses a 3D printer to produce masks, and valves for a ventilator.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) recently launched an appeal for $14 million in anticipation of a coronavirus outbreak in Palestinian refugee camps. It’s an indication of the dire financial straits the agency is in, particularly since the US – once its major donor – cut its annual $360 million donation in August 2018.
Trump cut U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2018. That move’s impact could become even more devastating for Palestinian refugees amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Valentine’s Day season in Gaza is when the best pop songs are released, when everyone on the streets was wearing red, and when all the locally grown roses were nearly sold out, Hani Almadhoun of UNRWA writes. But spouses’ inability to support families is driving the divorce rate up.
Palestinians in Gaza receiving rents stipends after their homes were destroyed in the 2014 war have accused the UN of exploitation after being required to work in return for the aid.
One week after an internal report citing widespread ethics violations within the UNRWA administration was leaked to the press, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have temporarily suspended their funding for the Palestinian refugee agency pending further investigation of the matter.
US officials are capitalizing off of a scandal surrounding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees after an ethics report accusing organizational leadership of abuse of power and creating a toxic work environment was leaked to the media. “This is exactly why we stopped their funding,” Trump’s former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said over Twitter.
Qatar first began funding Gaza in 2012, in conjunction with the rise to power of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and has since sent more than $1 billion. But the Gaza Strip suffers from the world’s highest rate of unemployment and poverty, and Qatari money hasn’t reduced the decline. “To really address the humanitarian crisis, we need to find solutions, not just temporary relief,” says Yahya Qaoud, a political researcher with the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees raised $110 million at a pledging meet in New York on Tuesday, but warned that it still needs more cash and may have to cut food handouts to some 1 million Gaza residents over the summer, and might not be able to open schools. The UNRWA event was held on the same day as the administration of US President Donald Trump launched its long-awaited and controversial plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians in Bahrain.