World

Last-minute donations of some $70 million for UN aid agency avert Palestinian school closures

  • Palestinians demonstrate against a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding gap that could keep about 500,000 Palestinian students out of school this fall, outside the UNRWA Gaza Headquarters in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The deputy chief of the UNRWA, which operates 700 schools, Sandra Mitchell, said Monday that "if funding does not arrive" this month, the agency could delay the start of the school year. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    Palestinians demonstrate against a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding gap that could keep about 500,000 Palestinian students out of school this fall, outside the UNRWA Gaza Headquarters in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The deputy chief of the UNRWA, which operates 700 schools, Sandra Mitchell, said Monday that "if funding does not arrive" this month, the agency could delay the start of the school year. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)  (The Associated Press)

  • Palestinian women demonstrate against a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding gap that could keep about 500,000 Palestinian students out of school this fall, outside the UNRWA Gaza Headquarters in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The deputy chief of the UNRWA, which operates 700 schools, Sandra Mitchell, said that "if funding does not arrive" this month, the agency could delay the start of the school year. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

    Palestinian women demonstrate against a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding gap that could keep about 500,000 Palestinian students out of school this fall, outside the UNRWA Gaza Headquarters in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The deputy chief of the UNRWA, which operates 700 schools, Sandra Mitchell, said that "if funding does not arrive" this month, the agency could delay the start of the school year. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)  (The Associated Press)

  • A Palestinian woman wears a green Hamas scarf attends a demonstration against a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding gap that could keep about 500,000 Palestinian students out of school this fall, outside the UNRWA Gaza Headquarters in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The deputy chief of the UNRWA, which operates 700 schools, Sandra Mitchell, said that "if funding does not arrive" this month, the agency could delay the start of the school year. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    A Palestinian woman wears a green Hamas scarf attends a demonstration against a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding gap that could keep about 500,000 Palestinian students out of school this fall, outside the UNRWA Gaza Headquarters in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The deputy chief of the UNRWA, which operates 700 schools, Sandra Mitchell, said that "if funding does not arrive" this month, the agency could delay the start of the school year. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)  (The Associated Press)

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says last-minute donations of some $70 million helped avert the closures of schools attended by half a million students.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency had warned a $101 million deficit would force it to delay the start of the school year in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. Jordan has said it can't absorb the overflow because its schools are crowded with Syrian refugees.

Agency chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl said Tuesday that contributions arrived over the past week from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Britain and Sweden. They helped reduce the shortfall to $22 million.

Kraehenbuehl says that in the unstable region, there's a risk of "forgetting the humiliation and despair endured for decades" by Palestinian refugees.