Which countries are still funding UNRWA amid Israel’s war on Gaza?

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), visited Ireland this week following the country’s decision to pledge 20 million euros (just under $21.5m) in support for the crisis-hit agency.

The UNRWA, which provides healthcare, education and other vital services to the Palestinian people, was accused by Israel last month of having links to the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, prompting more than 10 donor countries, including the United States, Germany, the European Union and Canada, to suspend financial support.

The funding from these countries makes up the bulk of all funding received by the UNRWA. Being cut off in this way means the agency will run out of money altogether within weeks, it said.

Ireland is one of the few countries to hold firm, however. “In Gaza, we are bearing witness to a humanitarian catastrophe,” said Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin on Thursday. “People are in dire need of the most basic life-saving provisions – food, water, shelter. In these most harrowing conditions, facing the prospect of further military escalation, UNRWA is the backbone of the humanitarian response. It urgently needs support from all UN member states.”

Why is the UNRWA so important?

The UNRWA was established in 1949 in the wake of the creation of the State of Israel.

Indeed, between November 29, 1947, when the UN General Assembly voted to partition the fading British Mandate of Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab state, and the establishment of Israel itself on May 14 the following year, armed fighters had ethnically cleansed thousands of Palestinians from their homes.

This clearance of Palestinians from their homes and land continued even after armies from surrounding Arab nations invaded Israel on May 15, 1948 and by the first half of 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians in total had been forcibly expelled or had fled from their homeland.

From the ashes of what Palestinians still refer to as the Nakba (the “catastrophe”) was born the UNRWA, which operates not only in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, but also in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria where Palestinian refugees today number in the millions.

How much of a shortfall in funding is the UNRWA facing and why?

Israel, which has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip since it began shelling the impoverished enclave on October 7 last year, alleges that 12 UNRWA staff from the body’s 13,000 workers in Gaza were involved in the Hamas assault on Israel, which killed 1,139 Israelis.

Israel’s allegations, compiled in a six-page dossier, were enough for the likes of the US, Germany and the EU to pause their contributions to the UNRWA which, in 2022, were worth $343.9m, $202.1m and $114.2m respectively.

Related Articles

Back to top button