Gaza staff at UN agency for Palestinians strike over job cuts

A Palestinian man walks past a closed health centre that run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) during a strike of all UNRWA institutions in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Gaza staff at UN agency for Palestinians strike over job cuts

  • The one-day strike closed more than 250 UNRWA schools in Gaza, as well as medical centers and food aid distribution points
  • The United States has traditionally been UNRWA’s largest funder, providing around $350 million a year

GAZA CITY: Staff at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees went on strike in the Gaza Strip on Monday to protest against job losses and US funding cuts.
The one-day strike closed more than 250 UNRWA schools in Gaza, as well as medical centers and food aid distribution points.
The United States has traditionally been UNRWA’s largest funder, providing around $350 million (300 million euros) a year.
But President Donald Trump has cut all support, sparking a funding crisis.
More than 250 jobs have been cut in Gaza and the West Bank so far, while hundreds of full-time roles have become part-time.
The refugee agency’s labor union is demanding the job cuts be reversed and its leaders say the strike could be the first of a number of measures.
A small protest took place outside the agency’s Gaza headquarters.
“The strike comes in light of the (UNRWA) administration’s lack of responsiveness to the demands of the employees’ union and their insistence on not solving their problems,” Amal Al-Batsh, deputy head of the union, said in a statement.
UNRWA says the funding deficit caused by the Trump administration’s withdrawal of support is so severe cuts are unavoidable.
Around 13,000 people work for the agency in Gaza, where more than two-thirds of the roughly two million residents are eligible for aid.
UNRWA says more than 200,000 Palestinians attend its schools in the strip.


Amnesty says Daesh group decimated rural Iraq

Updated 26 min 43 sec ago
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Amnesty says Daesh group decimated rural Iraq

  • Amnesty reported Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards, sabotaged wells and stole or destroyed vital farming equipment
  • The extremists seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014

BAGHDAD: The Daesh group’s deliberate destruction of agriculture in northern Iraq has hindered the return of hundreds of thousands of residents, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.
The New York-based rights group said Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards and sabotaged wells by filling them with rubble, oil or other materials. The militants also stole or destroyed pumps, cables, generators, transformers and vital electricity lines.
Amnesty called on the Iraqi government to repair rural infrastructure and compensate the displaced so they can return to their homes.
Daesh seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. US-backed Iraqi forces gradually drove the militants from all the territory under their control, declaring victory a year ago after a costly campaign that destroyed entire neighborhoods and towns.
“The damage to Iraq’s countryside is as far-reaching as the urban destruction, but the consequences of the conflict on Iraq’s rural residents are being largely forgotten,” said Richard Pearshouse, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty.
He said the report focuses on the “deliberate, wanton destruction” around the area of Sinjar, where the extremists massacred and enslaved thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority. About half of Sinjar’s residents have returned, with many others saying they have nothing to go back to.
Beyond Sinjar, Amnesty’s report gave sobering figures for all of Iraq.
“The conflict against IS eviscerated Iraq’s agricultural production, now an estimated 40 percent lower than 2014 levels,” it said. “Before IS, around two-thirds of Iraq’s farmers had access to irrigation — only three years later, this had fallen to 20 percent. Around 75 percent of livestock was lost, spiking to 95 percent in some areas.”
Syrian and Iraqi forces have gradually driven Daesh out of nearly all the territory it once held. But the group still maintains a presence in the Syrian desert and remote areas along the border. Many have warned it could stage a comeback if economic grievances are not addressed.
“Unless there is urgent government assistance, the long-term damage inflicted on Iraq’s rural environment will reverberate for years to come,” Pearshouse said. “When IS tore through Iraq in 2014, it thrived off rural poverty and resentments, so Iraq’s government should be concerned that something similar could happen again.”