By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) - Turkey will donate $10 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the country's UN envoy said Tuesday.
Feridun Sinirlioglu commended the work of the organization.
Established in 1949, UNRWA delivers critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Speaking at an aid commitment conference at UN headquarters, Sinirlioglu said 2018 was an “extraordinarily challenging year” for UNRWA.
“But at the same time, remarkable mobilization and support have been provided for its survival."
Turkey will also deliver $1 million to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Waqf Fund which was approved by the UN earlier this year after the U.S. cut off funding to UNRWA, significantly diminishing its resources.
Prior to the U.S. move, Washington was the largest donor to UNRWA, providing about $350 million annually, equivalent to about one quarter of the agency's annual budget.
UNRWA is responsible for a number of critical programs for more than 5 million Palestinians, providing such things as schooling, health services and food security.
The agency had been facing financial problems even before the U.S. aid cut.
Last July, a UNRWA spokesman announced that the agency would not renew the contracts of more than 100 staff members in Gaza and also terminated the contracts of dozens of its engineers.
According to UNRWA’s employees’ union, funding cuts have forced the agency to close its mental health program, which had provided direct services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and had employed about 430 people.
The funds coming from Turkey will be used in part towards reconstruction projects, according to Sinirlioglu.
"It is clear that the role played by UNRWA is vital until a just and durable solution is reached in accordance with UN resolutions," he said.
"At stake are the rights and dignity of Palestine refugees and regional stability."
*Dildar Baykan contributed to this report from New York