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Canada gives $50-million to UN Palestinian refugee agency that U.S. calls flawed

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A Palestinian women walks with her children near an entrance of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency health center in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, Oct.10, 2018. AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

Canada is contributing $50-million to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency – after the United States decided to stop funding what it called an “irredeemably flawed” organization.

The new Canadian funds announced Friday will be allocated over two years to assist the health and education efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA.

The Trump administration decided in August to withdraw US$300-million in support for the UNRWA, ending the United States’ status as the largest donor for an organization that had been trying to help more than five million Palestinian refugees.

Israel has accused the agency of being biased, fuelling its conflict with the Palestinians and promoting hatred against the Jewish state.

Canada’s foreign ministry says the new funds will help bring stability to the region by helping Palestinians cope with poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. But it also says the money will assist UNRWA with “its ongoing efforts to improve neutrality within the agency and its operations.”

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“This assistance demonstrates how Canada and UNRWA are working together to ensure respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, operational independence and impartiality,” a statement from Global Affairs Canada said.

Canada is earmarking $40-million toward the basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of Palestinian refugees, especially women and children. Another $10-million is aimed at helping 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon.

The new Canadian funds come two weeks after the European Union pledged an extra US$46-million to UNRWA to support its health and education services.

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