CHICAGO: Fifty-nine Democratic members of Congress have written to Kelly Craft, US ambassador to the UN, urging the Trump administration to restore humanitarian assistance to Palestinians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds would support 3,300 health-care workers staffing 144 UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) clinics described as being on “the frontlines in combating” coronavirus.
“As you know, the pandemic has now reached the Gaza Strip, with cases beginning to inexorably rise in a place with few resources to combat the outbreak,” read the letter.
“Coupled with the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, the pandemic now poses an unprecedented global health emergency,” it added.
“It is important that we empower these public health officials, who are deliberately putting themselves in harm’s way for the common good, by providing them the resources they need to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter called for funding to “support the six facilities comprising the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, as well as US NGOs engaged in health work.”
Starting in 2018, President Donald Trump began suspending all US funding to the Palestinians and agencies that support Palestinian refugees, including UNRWA and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in an effort to pressure Palestinian leaders to embrace his efforts to impose a peace deal favorable to Israel.
US cuts have included $300 million from UNRWA, pushing it into financial crisis, and $200 million through USAID that primarily supports health-care services.
UNRWA is working closely with host authorities and the World Health Organization with triage care and protocols in place to identify patients with respiratory symptoms among the Palestinians.
The Trump cuts impacting USAID have undermined health services, including for hospitals and programs to identify breast cancer among Palestinian women.