'Half A Million Children' Are At Risk If The U.S. Cuts Palestinian Aid: U.N. Agency : Parallels NPR spoke to the director of U.N. relief operations in the West Bank about how he makes the case for America's continued assistance in the region.
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'Half A Million Children' Are At Risk If The U.S. Cuts Palestinian Aid: U.N. Agency

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'Half A Million Children' Are At Risk If The U.S. Cuts Palestinian Aid: U.N. Agency

'Half A Million Children' Are At Risk If The U.S. Cuts Palestinian Aid: U.N. Agency

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Trump administration is withholding half of its planned aid to the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees. Now one of the agency's top officials is in Washington trying to make the case to keep the aid flowing. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The West Bank program director for UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, isn't quite sure what the Trump administration wants them to do differently. Scott Anderson says in his 10 years at UNRWA, he's always tried to save money in health and education programs. But if the U.S., the largest donor, cuts funding, there are big risks.

SCOTT ANDERSON: What's at risk is over half a million children being out of school. And it's - you know, school's where we teach human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance, which I think is very important in any setting globally but particularly at this point in time in the Middle East.

KELEMEN: Anderson, a former U.S. Army officer, says there are security implications if UNRWA can no longer provide social services for Palestinians.

ANDERSON: People, especially in the Department of Defense, understand the challenges that this could create. I think even as importantly on the ground, I have a lot of interaction with the Israeli army. And they clearly understand what this means if UNRWA is not providing these services, and it has them a bit nervous.

KELEMEN: The Trump administration gave UNRWA $60 million this year but withheld another $65 million. The move came after Palestinians reacted angrily to the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Anderson tries to steer clear of politics, but he says until there's a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, UNRWA should continue its work, especially running schools.

ANDERSON: It's not dependence. It's creating an opportunity for them to be independent. One of the families I visited I think captured it quite eloquently. They said refugees don't have assets. We invest in our children.

KELEMEN: The U.S. now says one of its goals in withholding money is to pressure others to step up with donations. Anderson says so far Kuwait is the only country to offer new money and just $900,000. Europeans are giving their usual contributions early to help keep UNRWA programs afloat. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMANCIPATOR'S "NATURAL CAUSE")

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