Jakarta - The National Board of Zakat (BAZNAS), on October 16, 2018, signed a commitment to distribute zakat to Palestinian refugees worth US$ 300,000 (around Rp 4.5 billion).

The signing of the commitment in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was made between BAZNAS and The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Jordanian-based humanitarian organization that handles similar matters, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO) in the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki witnessed the procession directly - after both held bilateral consultations.

"We provide zakat assistance from BAZNAS muzaki worth US$ 150,000 (around Rp 1.5 billion) for UNRWA and another US$ 150,000 for JHCO," said Vice Chairman of BAZNAS, Zainulbahar Noor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tuesday (10/16/2018).

"We will also increase the assistance according to the amount of zakat we have collected, which is specifically allocated to Palestine to establish vocational training programs."

"It is because UNRWA has schools throughout Palestine and Jordan to help secondary school graduates find work. We collaborate with the Indonesian Embassy in Amman, which is concurrently for Palestine," continued Zainulbahar.

Meanwhile, UNRWA Planning Director Abdi Aynte greatly appreciated the steps taken by BAZNAS and said, "BAZNAS shows the world that zakat can be used to help the wider community." Aynte also promised to distribute the funds well and on target to programs managed by UNRWA for Palestinian refugees.

The donation given by BAZNAS came amid a crisis in the operational budget deficit suffered by UNRWA, after the United States stopped all of its funding of more than US$ 364 million to the organization for 2018. This was a decision that made UNRWA suffer a large deficit in early 2018, which reached US$ 446 million.

Nevertheless, the nominal has depleted compared to the deficit they suffered in early 2018, said UNRWA official. Now, UNRWA has a deficit of US$ 60 million or around Rp 912.8 billion - which is considered to be quite significant.

The reason why United States ended all funding to UNRWA was that the organization experienced "irreparable defects", according to a statement from the US Foreign Ministry. The accusation was denied by UNRWA, which actually stated that US decisions were political, triggered by heated issues surrounding the transfer of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in late 2017. President Donald Trump's pro-Israel tendency was called by UNRWA as one of the triggers.

Since the majority of UNRWA's budget comes from independent voluntary donations from international countries or entities, the US step which cuts the total donations to UNRWA makes the institution overwhelmed. In July 2018 for example, the budget deficit made UNRWA have to lay off a number of its employees working in assistance programs for Palestinian refugees.

Amid the deficit crisis, UNRWA still had to be responsible for managing 709 schools with 21,946 teachers teaching 515,260 students in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Especially in Jordan, UNRWA manages 171 schools, 3 vocational training centers with 121,368 students in 10 refugee camps. UNRWA also provides health services for more than 9 million Palestinian patients at nearly 150 primary health clinics every year.

(Source: m.liputan6.com/ | Transl: ADA)