SIBLINE, Lebanon: Hundreds of Palestinian students gathered Monday to call for vital funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees ahead of a donor conference in Rome on March 15. Students of the UNRWA-funded Birzeit and Beit Jala schools in the Mount Lebanon town of Sibline danced Palestinian-style dabke and flew paper kites bearing UNRWA’s #DignityIsPriceless fundraising campaign slogan.
The summit at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome Thursday will aim to replenish the coffers of the troubled agency. The already financially struggling body was hit hard in January when U.S. President Donald Trump cut $65 million in funds earmarked for UNRWA from its $125 million contribution and froze further funding.
UNRWA faces “a financial deficit of $446 million,” Gwen Louis, a representative of the agency, said at the event in Sibline. “This deficit threatens the fate of our services and threatens the entire regional security,” Louis added, expressing hope that the agency could secure vital funds at the upcoming conference.
Were UNRWA to run out of funds in the near future, “I’d grow up without an education,” Mohammad al-Ali, a 12-year-old student in Sibline, told The Daily Star. Ali flew one of the dozens of blue paper kites alongside his classmates. Other students held up posters and wore hats.
UNRWA supports schools for an estimated 37,000 Palestinian refugee children at 66 schools across Lebanon, Louis said, a service now under threat from the funding deficit.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 13, 2018, on page 3.