Gazans March for Dignity as UN Funds Dwindle and Schools Shutter

Alongside Palestinian children and their family members on Monday, several hundred employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip rallied against announced cuts to the agency’s budget and services, especially regarding education, which have resulted in the delay of the school term for many students.

“To think that we would commit $4.5 billion in military aid to Israel this year, while a fraction of that would guarantee a basic level of care for Palestinian children still living and learning in the rubble from last year’s bombardment, is heartbreaking  and tragic.”
—Danny Muller, Middle East Children’s AllianceAs the workers and their supporters marched in Gaza, people held signs reading “Education is a red line” and “I deserve to live in dignity.”

In a speech at the protest, Suhail Hindi, the chairman of the union of Arab employees at the UNRWA in Gaza, said the agency’s “decision to reduce its services to Palestinian refugees is unacceptable” and that its impact would be “catastrophic” for young Palestinians.

In June, UNRWA announced that impacts of austerity and budget constraints would force it cut 85 percent of its international staff operating in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

Subsequently, according to Al-Jazeera:

Barely a year after the deadly assault by the Israeli military on Gaza known as “Operation Protective Edge”—which left an estimated 2,134 Palestinians dead and thousands more wounded—international aid groups and the UN continue to warn that all Gazans remain in extreme crisis, suffering from lack of water, basic health supplies, and access to adequate shelter.

Danny Muller, a coordinator with the Middle East Children’s Alliance, said it is unconscionable that there remain shortages of international aid money for Palestinian children living under occupation when there continues to be seemingly endless funds coming from the United States for Israel’s military. Though in recent years the U.S. has supplied Israel with roughly $3 billion in annual military aid, the Obama administration, in the wake of securing a historic nuclear agreement with Iran, announced that it was increasing this year’s package by a full 50 percent.

“It is revolting and unpardonable that as the United States plans to gift an additional $1.5 billion in military aid to Israel, hundreds of thousands of children are being denied the right to education,” Muller said. “These weapons gifted by the U.S. are the same ones that Israel used to bomb schools and hospitals in Gaza. To think that we would commit $4.5 billion in military aid to Israel this year, while a fraction of that would guarantee a basic level of care for Palestinian children still living and learning in the rubble from last year’s bombardment, is heartbreaking  and tragic.”

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