Aid groups slam suspension of funding for UN agency in Gaza

AFP , Tuesday 30 Jan 2024

Aid groups condemned on Tuesday a decision by several countries to suspend funding for the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA), pointing to a "worsening humanitarian catastrophe" and "looming famine" in Gaza.

Palestinians stand at the entrance of the UNRWA-run University College for Educational Science Ramal
Palestinians stand at the entrance of the UNRWA-run University College for Educational Science Ramallah city in the occupied West Bank on January 29, 2024. AFP

 

A number of key donors to UNRWA -- including the United States, Germany and Japan -- have announced they are suspending funding to the agency over Israel's accusations that some of its staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas Al-Aqsa Flood operation.

UNRWA has fired several employees since Israel's accusations and promised a thorough investigation into the claims, which were not specified.

The two dozen top charities, including Oxfam and Save the Children, stressed the United Nations Relief and Works Agency was the main provider of aid to millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the wider Middle East.

"The suspension of funding by donor states will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians, over half of whom are children," the NGOs said in a joint statement.

"The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel's continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza."

A total of 152 UNRWA staff had already been killed and 145 of the UN agency's facilities had been damaged by bombardment, according to the statement, issued in English by the Norwegian Refugee Council, on behalf of the aid groups.

"If the funding suspensions are not reversed, we may see a complete collapse of the already restricted humanitarian response in Gaza," they said.

Duty to Palestinians 

The NGOs said more than a million displaced Palestinians were taking shelter in or around 154 UNRWA shelters, stressing that the agency has been working in "near impossible circumstances."

"Countries must reverse these funding suspensions, uphold their duties towards the Palestinian people and scale up humanitarian assistance for civilians in dire need in Gaza and the region."

On Friday, the UN's top court said Israel must prevent genocide in its war in Gaza and allow aid into the besieged Palestinian territory, but stopped short of calling for an end to the fighting.

On Saturday, Israel said it would seek to stop UNRWA from operating in Gaza after the war.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the row over funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees was distracting from the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas's October 7 operation on Israel resulted in about 1,140 deaths, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures. Fighters also seized about 250 captives.

Israel's relentless military offensive since then has killed at least 26,751 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the densely populated territory.

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