Egyptian, Norwegian FMs tackle challenges besetting UNWRA following funding suspension

Ahram Online , Saturday 3 Feb 2024

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and his Norwegian counterpart Espen Barth Eide discussed in a phone call Saturday the challenges besetting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) following the decision of some countries to suspend their funding to the agency.

Egyptian, Norwegian FMs

 

Both Egyptian and Norwegian ministers stressed that UNRWA plays “the primary” role in distributing aid and dealing with the various aspects of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, according to a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry.

Cutting aid to UNRWA “could deteriorate the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip further,” they added.

Several countries have suspended their funding to the UN agency after Israel alleged that several UNRWA staff were involved in Hamas's attack on 7 October. 

However, Norway, a top donor to UNWRA, decided to maintain its funding, urging countries that have paused the funding to “consider the consequences of their actions on the population in Gaza.”

In reply to the Israeli allegations, UNRWA, which provides shelters and relief to Palestinian refugees within the UN mandates, vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into the claims.

During their call, Shoukry and Barth Eide urged for mobilizing international support to intensify the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, according to the statement.

Since 7 October, Israel has cut off all food, water, medical, and fuel supplies to Gaza, imposing restrictions on the aid coming from the Rafah border crossing.

For his part, Barth Eide hailed as “crucial” Egypt’s role in delivering humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and supporting efforts to achieve a ceasefire and enforce a truce in Gaza, the statement added.

The two ministers agreed to continue consultations to support efforts seeking to contain the crisis and limit its humanitarian repercussions on the Palestinian people.

Egypt has voiced its support for the UN body’s role, saying Israeli allegations are “highly charged in connotation.”

On Thursday, UNRWA said it would probably be forced to shut down its entire operations in the Middle East, not only in Gaza, by the end of February if its funding remains suspended.

Established in 1949, the UNRWA is the largest UN agency operating in Gaza, offering healthcare, education, and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

Since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October, the UNRWA has utilized its facilities throughout Gaza to provide refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinian civilians.

According to UN Watch, here is an updated list of all countries that have decided to suspend their UNRWA funding:

  • United States ($343.9 M)
  • Germany ($202.1 M)
  • European Union ($114.1 M)
  • Sweden ($61 M)
  • Japan ($30.2 M)
  • France ($28.9 M)
  • Switzerland ($25.5 M)
  • Canada ($23.7 M)
  • United Kingdom ($21.2 M)
  • The Netherlands ($21.2 M )
  • Australia ($13.8 M)
  • Italy ($18 M)
  • Austria ($8.1 M)
  • Finland ($7.8 M)
  • New Zealand ($560.8 K)
  • Iceland ($558.7 K)
  • Romania ($210.7 K)
  • Estonia ($90 K)                             

Israel has killed at least 27,238 Palestinians in Gaza, wounded thousands of others, and displaced over 1.9 million Palestinians, according to the most recent data.

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