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UNRWA has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1949. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Some 21 global aid organizations have slammed the decision as “reckless” by certain countries to suspend funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which it says is the main aid provider for millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the region. 

In a joint statement on Monday, the agencies including Oxfam and Save the Children, said “we are deeply concerned and outraged that some of the largest donors have united to suspend” funding for UNRWA “amid a rapidly worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

The move, the agencies pointed out, “will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians, over half of whom are children, who rely on UNRWA aid in Gaza”.

Nearly a dozen Western countries, including the US, Canada, and France have suspended funding to the UN relief agency after Israel alleged some of its employees were involved in the October 7 operation carried out by the Palestinian Resistance.  UNRWA terminated the contracts of the staff members concerned, asking for an independent investigation.

The organizations warned, “The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel’s continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza.”

“We are shocked by the reckless decision to cut a lifeline for an entire population by some of the very countries that had called for aid in Gaza to be stepped up and for humanitarians to be protected while doing their job,” the organizations said.

In addition, they said, “This decision comes as the International Court of Justice ordered immediate and effective action to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.”

UNRWA Work ‘Cannot be Replaced’

As UNRWA is the largest humanitarian agency in Gaza, “their delivery of humanitarian assistance cannot be replaced by other agencies working in Gaza.”

If the funding suspensions are not reversed, the organizations stressed, “we may see a complete collapse of the already restricted humanitarian response in Gaza.”

With approximately over one million displaced Palestinians taking shelter in or around 154 UNRWA shelters, the agency and aid organizations have continued to work in near-impossible circumstances to provide food, vaccinations, and freshwater, the statement said.

It added that the countries suspending funds risk “further depriving” Palestinians in the region of essential food, water, medical assistance and supplies, education and protection.

The agencies urged donor states to reaffirm support for the vital work that UNRWA and its partners do “to help Palestinians survive one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of our times”.

“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,” the statement concluded.

UNRWA Commissioner General, Philippe Lazzarini, has warned of the serious implications of sanctioning the entire population of Gaza because of the allegations against a few individuals within the organization.

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

Lazzarini urged countries who have suspended their funding “to re-consider their decisions before UNRWA is forced to suspend its humanitarian response.”

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 26,751 Palestinians have been killed, and 65,636 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

(The Palestine Chronicle) 

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