The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced more than $178 million in new assistance for ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq as the head of a Christian church there blasted Washington as “wrong” for bypassing funding through official U.N. channels.
The new assistance brings total State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development funding to the vulnerable population in fiscal year 2017 to $300 million.
The new infusion of money includes more than $133 million as part of USAID’s Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response, which targets food, shelter and medical needs in the Ninewa Plain and western Ninewa, restoring health and education services, improving jobs and local economies, and the prevention of future atrocities.
Another estimated $37 million supports the clearance of explosive remnants, $8.5 million provides psychosocial and legal support, and supports increased minority representation in provincial government, and $2 million goes toward cultural heritage preservation.
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The announcement comes on the same day the leader of the Iraq-based Chaldean Catholic Church accused the United States of not helping the Christian minority in Iraq.
“Americans are very nice and very friendly as individuals, but their policy is wrong,” Cardinal Raphael Sako, patriarch of the church, said from Rome where he was attending the synod of bishops. “There are promises, but until now, there’s nothing … to help these people return to their homes.”
In October 2017, Vice President Mike Pence said the United States would shift funding away from United Nations-supported programs to assist Christian minorities in Iraq and instead move to direct funding.
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“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” he said at an In Defense of Christians summit in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump has moved away from contributing to U.N. organizations, cutting all funding from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which assists Palestinian refugees, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which preserves cultural sites, and the U.N. Population Fund, which promotes family planning.