Belgium has reacted to Donald Trump’s decision to cut aid destined for Palestinians by pledging to donate an extra €19m (£17m) to help make up the shortfall.
The announcement came a day after the US slashed its funding for the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) by $65m (£47m).
Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and international aid minister, said UNRWA was “the last lifebuoy” for many Palestinians.
“I have a lot of respect for UNRWA’s work, which has to operate in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. Living conditions in Gaza, Syria, the West Bank and elsewhere in the region are particularly tough,” he said.
“For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last lifebuoy. With the help of UNRWA half a million of Palestine children are able to go to school. This prevents them from falling prey to radicalisation and extreme violence.”
Washington announced on Tuesday it would withhold $65m out of its $125m aid package for the UN agency.
Mr Trump argued in a tweet that the US gets “no appreciation or respect” for the aid, claiming that the Palestinians were “no longer willing to talk peace”.
The Belgian government said the first instalment of its pledge would be made immediately, given the urgent situation. The UN agency has already made redundant dozens of teachers and refugee camp workers in recent weeks, citing delays in the transfer of the US’s aid package.
UNRWA was created in 1949 to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees, who at the time numbered around 700,000 in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
It now provides support through housing, healthcare and education for around five million Palestinians, including in the occupied territories, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.