Sunday December 05, 2021

Think before it’s too late

February 02, 2018

Dear President Trump, We recently heard that the United States has decided to reduce aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

UNRWA was established 69 years ago to help refugee families like mine until they are able to return home. A reduction in this agency’s funding will be a disaster for us because we are still not allowed to return home. If you do not reverse this decision, this will be the first step in ending the discussion on our future. It will make these ‘temporary’ camps, where we have been waiting for decades, into permanent ones.

We heavily depend on UNRWA’s services for our education and healthcare. The school that my younger siblings attend is now under threat of closing down. If this happens, they won’t have a place to complete their basic education.

I completed my primary and middle school education at UNRWA schools inside the Qalandia refugee camp. I attended a secondary school in Ramallah, as there was not an UNRWA secondary school in the camp that could accommodate me. Now, I am studying journalism at Birzeit University, West Bank.

I want my younger siblings to also receive an education, but I now fear that there will be no schools for them to attend. I am not the only one worried about this - every parent in the camp is worried about their children’s future.

The residents of the camp live in very difficult financial conditions. Most of those who work earn no more meagre salaries. If UNRWA schools close down, many families would not be able to find alternative schools to educate their children because they would not be able to afford transportation costs and private school fees.

The issue does not stop at education. The US decision will also impact UNRWA’s health clinics. In Qalandia refugee camp, we only have one medical centre. This medical centre is the only place our children can receive medical care and vaccinations. The closure of this centre, or even a reduction in its services, will have serious repercussions for us. The children will not receive vaccinations, the elderly and the sick will not receive the necessary medical care; we will be facing yet another humanitarian crisis.

I am particularly fearful about my younger brother, Zain. He is not even one year old and like any other baby, he needs several vaccinations. I fear that he will not be able to get them if the centre closes down. I also fear for the brother still inside my mother’s womb. I constantly ask myself: Will we be able to vaccinate him? Will we be able to find treatment for my younger siblings if they fall sick one day?

These questions keep me and my mother awake at night.

In addition to healthcare and education, UNRWA also provides food to many financially disadvantaged families in Qalandia refugee camp. These families may not have food on the table tomorrow if UNRWA’s services are cut.

Most of the poor families who depend on food aid from UNRWA are missing a father and a breadwinner. Their children may go hungry if UNRWA is gone.

Mr President, if the US goes forward with its decision to reduce aid to UNRWA, refugees like me and my family, who had already been forced from their lands and homes, will face a new humanitarian disaster, especially the poorer and more vulnerable families. In the long term, this move will give Israel green light to continue violating our rights.

Mr President, will you go back on this decision before it’s too late?

This article has been excerpted from: ‘Dear Mr Trump, we’re facing a humanitarian disaster.’