Tuesday, March 5, 2024

UNRWA ‘cannot be replaced’, say 21 humanitarian aid organisations

Twenty-one aid organisations – including ActionAid, Oxfam and Save the Children – have issued a joint statement in support of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, considered a lifeline for two million people in the besieged enclave.

More than a dozen countries, including major donors the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, have halted their funding to the agency following Israeli allegations that some UNRWA staff participated in Hamas’s October 7 attacks.

“We are outraged that some donors have united to suspend funding for UNRWA … amid a rapidly worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza,” the organisations said.

“UNRWA is the largest humanitarian agency in Gaza and their delivery of humanitarian assistance cannot be replaced by other agencies working in Gaza,” the organisations, many of which also provide humanitarian assistance in the besieged Palestinian enclave, wrote.

Some “152 UNRWA staff have already been killed and 145 UNRWA facilities damaged by bombardment”, since October, the organisations also noted.

UNRWA provides crucial day-to-day assistance for 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who are living through a dire humanitarian catastrophe amid the Israeli assault. The agency said on Monday that it would not be able to continue operations in Gaza and across the region beyond the end of February if funding were not resumed.

The UN on Saturday said that it had terminated nine out of 12 staff over the allegations and vowed to hold its employees accountable, but expressed its shock at the swift funding cut by several Western countries amid a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which has been devastated by nearly four months of Israel’s aerial and ground war.

“It would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an Agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region,” Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA chief, said in a statement on Saturday.

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