The UN agency for Palestinian refugees announced Monday that it will cut 85 percent of its international staff on short term contracts in coming months in light of a $100 million deficit.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement that the agency “is taking this measure to reduce costs as much as possible without reducing services to refugees.”
However, he added that UNRWA may have to make “difficult decisions” on its school system for half a million Palestinian children across the Middle East “if the deficit is not filled.”
He said that 85 percent of the 137 internationals would be lost “in a phased process which will last until the end of September.”
The first 35 percent will see their contracts end in the coming four weeks, while “another 50 percent will end by 30 September without further extension or renewal.”
Gunness said: “With stringent austerity measures already in place beyond today’s announcement, the agency should be able to continue with life-saving services to the end of the year.”
“These include our health programs, relief and social services, sanitation and emergency projects for which we have funds.”
He said that the agency’s school system in Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria is “essential but some difficult decisions may be needed in coming weeks if the deficit is not filled.”
Right now, UNRWA provides free education to 115,000 students in Jordan, 50,000 students in the West Bank, and 225,000 in Gaza. That’s nearly 400,000 students who are citizens in areas that provide free public education, who instead attend a separate school system – a school system that has bigoted teachers and that inculcates hate.
If each student costs only $1,000 to educate every year, that is $400 million being spent annually by UNRWA that should be paid for by the host governments.
Similarly, no one seems too upset that Lebanon and Syria do not offer free schooling for their Palestinian residents who were born in those countries. Other countries will allow non-citizens to attend public schools, but UNRWA’s existence gives Arab nations an excuse to keep their apartheid systems in place. UNRWA could use its not-insignificant political clout to shame Arab countries into treating their Palestinian “guests” the same as citizens, but instead it spends hundreds of millions more to build a completely separate school system – but one that uses the host country’s curricula!
This story just highlights once again what a waste of money UNRWA is.