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China to provide $2.35 million for Gaza food program

Aug. 8, 2018 2:15 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 11, 2018 11:03 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- China signed an agreement with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) to provide $2.35 million to support to the Gaza food program for 2018.

According to Chinese news outlet Xinhua, the agreement was signed by Guo Wei, the director of the Office of the People's Republic of China to the State of Palestine, and Pierre Krahenbuhl, the UNRWA commissioner general.

UNRWA called the agreement a generous support from the Chinese government amid the agency's financial crisis after the United States cut its aid funds by over a half.

Krahenbuhl said in a statement that China has given "great attention to the issue of Palestine and has always shown attention and solidarity for Palestine refugees throughout the region."

Guo restated China's steady position in supporting Palestinians through various channels, and declared that "China would like to announce a grant of 100 million yuan ($14.64 million) in helping the economy development and improving living conditions of Palestinians."

The agreement also states that China will provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Palestinians and make further contributions to the UNRWA.

China has previously urged the international community to help UNRWA during its financial crisis, in order to uphold its obligations towards millions of refugees who rely on the UNRWA services, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the humanitarian crisis deepens on the daily.

The US aid cut came after a decision made following a lengthy internal debate within the Donald Trump administration.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, pushed for a complete freeze of funding to UNRWA, unless the Palestinians commit to U.S.-mediated peace talks with Israel, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other State Department officials warned that such a move would create a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Jordan and the occupied West Bank.

UNRWA recently announced that it succeeded in reducing its deficit from $446 million to $217 million, in order to maintain its work throughout 2018, but warned against cutting its services due to the drastic deficit.

UNRWA provides cash assistance to more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria -- one of the largest such programs in an active conflict setting anywhere in the world. UNRWA also provides education to over 47,000 Palestinian refugees in the war-torn country.

In Gaza, where unemployment is among the highest in the world due to a decade-long Israeli siege on the coastal enclave, almost one million Palestinian refugees are dependent on UNRWA for emergency food assistance -- ten times the amount of refugees that required such support in 2000.

Throughout the region, the agency serves about 5.3 million Palestinian refugees.

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