A social worker conducts an assessment on a young patient at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, one of the ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem likely to be impacted by funding cuts to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Photo by Anglican Video

Primate’s letter calls for support to Palestinian refugees

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is calling on the Canadian government to increase support for Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) following a sharp reduction in contributions from the United States.

In an open letter to MP Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister for International Development and La Francophonie, Archbishop Hiltz implored the Government of Canada to increase funding to UNRWA to sustain education and health care services for Palestinian refugees across the Diocese of Jerusalem. This area includes Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. The Primate also asks that the federal government joins UNRWA in creating new funding initiatives and partnerships.

UNRWA currently oversees 700 schools and 137 medical clinics, which provide education and health care to Palestinian refugees throughout the diocese. The U.S. government recently announced that its 2018 contribution to UNRWA would amount to $60 million—an 84 per cent reduction from its $350 million pledge the previous year.

“As Chair of the G7, Canada has an opportunity to raise greater awareness that health and education are the building-blocks for sound development and eventual peace and stability,” the Primate wrote in his letter.

For the Diocese of Jerusalem, the funding shortfall as a result of the decreased U.S. contribution would principally impact the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. A key diocesan ministry, Al Ahli is one of several hospitals in Gaza that serve poor and marginalized people who cannot afford basic health care or serious medical treatments.

Should funding for UNRWA continue to decrease, Global Relations Director Andrea Mann said, “the current situation of reduced amounts of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, electricity, fuel for generators, all of that will continue to be more and more compromised, so in the end, fewer services are provided”.

“We may see a time where those that work for the hospital don’t receive full wages or wages in a timely manner,” she added. “That has happened in the past and you can imagine how difficult that is for individuals and for their families in what is already a very, very difficult place to live in the world.”

Mann encouraged Anglicans to pray for all those affected by the cuts, and to learn more about Canada’s existing support for UNRWA and how the program has supported Palestinian refugees.

Read the Primate’s letter.

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