ROME – The Latest on the U.N. donor conference for Palestinian refugees (all times local):
The United Nations says a donor conference has produced nearly $100 million in new pledges to fund the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees this year after the U.S. slashed its aid.
But the U.N. is still running about $346 million short for 2018, and officials warned that critical services could be scrapped if the money doesn't come through.
Jordan, Egypt and Sweden hosted the emergency donor conference in Rome on Thursday to try to make up for the shortfall. Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said the conference was "a very successful beginning" but that more fundraising was necessary.
A U.S.-induced half-billion-dollar funding shortfall for the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians risks cutting critical services that could "push the suffering in disastrous and unpredictable directions," the U.N. chief warned Thursday.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed an emergency funding conference in Rome after the U.S. administration this year slashed tens of millions to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, prompting the greatest funding crisis in its 68-year history.
The agency, the oldest and largest U.N. relief program in the Middle East, provides health care, education and social services to an estimated 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Cutting sanitation, health care and medical services in already poverty-wracked and conflict-ridden areas "would have severe impacts — a cascade of problems that could push the suffering in disastrous and unpredictable directions," he warned.
The Trump administration announced in January it was slashing $65 million this year. But the agency said the actual cut was around $300 million because the U.S. had led the agency to believe it would provide $365 million in 2018.