UNRWA funding suspension ‘catastrophic’ for Gaza: Heads of UN agencies

The heads of UN organizations warn that “withdrawing funds from UNRWA is perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza.”

  • A facility of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is pictured in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank on January 30, 2024. (Photo by Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The heads of multiple UN bodies warned in a joint statement Wednesday that cutting off funding to the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) will have “catastrophic consequences” for Gaza.

“Withdrawing funds from UNRWA is perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the occupied Palestinian territory and across the region,” said the statement from heads of organizations that form the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

Several countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan, have suspended funding to UNRWA after the Israeli occupation claimed that 12 of the agency’s staff took part in the Palestinian Resistance’s Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7.

The dispute intensified after “Israel” accused the UNRWA of allowing the Palestinian Resistance movement Hamas to use agency infrastructure in Gaza for military activity.

Earlier on Tuesday, the UN’s coordinator for Gaza aid stressed that nothing can “replace or substitute” UNRWA.

“There is no way that any organization can replace or substitute (the) tremendous capacity, the fabric of UNRWA — (their) ability and their knowledge of the population in Gaza,” said aid coordinator Sigrid Kaag.

The Israeli occupation has vowed to stop the agency’s work in Gaza after the war and doubled down on Tuesday when government spokesperson Eylon Levy said UNRWA “has been fundamentally compromised.”

Washington, which said it was the largest donor to the agency having given $131 million to UNRWA since October, said it “very much supported” its work.

“There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food and water and medicine at the scale that UNRWA does,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

“We want to see that work continued, which is why it is so important that the United Nations take this matter seriously, that they investigate, that there is accountability for anyone who is found to have engaged in wrongdoing.”

Read more: UNRWA funding suspension shows donor nations complicit in war: Hamdan

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