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Canada boosts aid to Palestinian refugee agency

A refugee leaves after a medical check in the UNWRA (UN Relief and Works Agency) health center at the Asker refugee camp east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank
A refugee leaves after a medical check in the UNWRA (UN Relief and Works Agency) health center at the Asker refugee camp east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank A refugee leaves after a medical check in the UNWRA (UN Relief and Works Agency) health center at the Asker refugee camp east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank AFP/File
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Ottawa (AFP)

Canada stepped up aid for Palestinian refugees on Friday, announcing Can$50 million (US$38 million) for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose mission has suffered since Washington cut its help.

The Canadian top up comes after the United States, the largest single contributor to UNRWA, announced in August an end to its US$350 million a year funding for the agency.

UNRWA was set up in 1950 to help Palestinian refugees who lost their homes because of the 1948 Middle East conflict. Its assistance includees schools, healthcare centers and food distribution.

The Canadian contribution is to be spread over two years. Can$40 million will go to "meeting the basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of Palestinian refugees," Ottawa said in a statement.

Another Can$10 million will be used to provide "emergency life-saving assistance to more than 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon," it said.

In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration reversed cuts to Palestinian aid by his predecessor.

US President Donald Trump, as well as Israel, opposes how the agency operates and how the number of refugees is calculated.

More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.

They and all their descendants are deemed by the UN agency to be refugees who fall under its remit.

Canada said it "exercises enhanced due diligence" for all aid for Palestinians including "strong anti-terrorism provisions in funding agreements."

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