As UN budget dries up, Palestinian classrooms swell in size

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) — The effects of U.S. aid cuts have rippled throughout the operations of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, but its sprawling school system, serving 500,000 children across the Middle East, has been hit hardest.

Classroom sizes have nearly doubled to 50 students, taxing the patience of children and teachers alike. Students say they’ve felt a major shift.

The U.S. was UNRWA’s biggest donor for decades, but in 2018, the Trump administration cut U.S. contributions from $360 million to $60 million. In 2019, U.S. contributions are zero.

Peter Mulrean, the agency’s New York representative, says “There already wasn’t much fat to cut. Now we’re at the bone.”

The agency has also cut psychosocial counseling, adding to concerns that the neediest kids will bear the brunt of austerity.

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