SIDON, Lebanon: Employees of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees held strikes across Lebanon Friday to protest the agency’s handling of United States contribution cuts.
"Under the pretext of fiscal deficit and the danger this poses to refugees, the [UNRWA] administration surprises us with worse and worse measures," the head of the UNRWA workers’ union, Ibrahim al-Saadi, said in Sidon.
According to the protesters, UNRWA has blocked contract workers from obtaining long-term employment, citing the financial crisis the agency is facing.
Earlier this week, the U.S. – UNRWA’s biggest donor – notified the agency that it would withhold $65 million of a $125 million aid package earmarked for the body. However, Belgium and the Netherlands have decided to make a financial contribution of $25 million and $15 million respectively to counteract the U.S's decision, an official source at the UNRWA told The Daily Star. While this will make up a chunk of the shortfall, the agency has been plagued by financial difficulty from low donations for years.
Almost 28,000 employees UNRWA staff in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan held sit-ins in protest of the agency's decision. Workers including teachers, administrative employees and field workers. "We are committed to the continued work of UNRWA... but we will not accept the financial crisis as a sword on our necks," Al Saadi said.
Some 3,000 workers gathered in Sidon, Tyre, Tripoli, Bekaa and Beirut.