Conflicts & War

Over 2 million Gazans depend on UNRWA aid, agency chief warms

Jerusalem, Jan 28 (EFE).- The commissioner-general of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, warned that more than 2 million Gazans depended on the humanitarian aid provided by the organization, which could be forced to halt its activities due to the suspension of funds from nine donor countries.

“Nine countries have as of today temporarily suspended their funding to UNRWA. These decisions threaten our ongoing humanitarian work across the region including and especially in the Gaza Strip,” Lazzarini warned in a statement.

Over the past two days, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland and Australia have announced the suspension of funding to UNRWA following allegations that several agency staff were involved in the Oct. 7 terror attacks carried out by Islamist group Hamas in southern Israel.

“It is shocking to see a suspension of funds to the Agency in reaction to allegations against a small group of staff, especially given the immediate action that UNRWA took by terminating their contracts and asking for a transparent independent investigation,” Lazzarini said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also called for an investigation, which is already being conducted by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, the organization’s highest investigative authority.

The UNRWA commissioner-general warned that almost the entire population of the Gaza Strip was dependent on the agency’s assistance for “their sheer survival.”

The agency provides shelter to more than 1 million people and food and primary healthcare to more than 2 million, “even at the height of the hostilities,” the official added.

“Many are hungry as the clock is ticking towards a looming famine,” he said.

Since Israel allowed the entry of humanitarian aid into the Strip at the end of October, the UNRWA has been largely in charge of its distribution.

Lazzarini said that in its ruling on the genocide case against Israel on Friday, the International Court of Justice had highlighted the importance of increasing the flow of humanitarian aid to the enclave.

“The only way that this can be done is through cooperation with international partners, especially UNRWA as the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Israel has welcomed the suspension of funding for UNRWA by some countries and urged other donors to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Hamas has flatly denied that UNRWA humanitarian personnel participate with them in military actions. EFE

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