The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) faced a funding crisis, potentially leaving over 2 million Palestinians without vital aid by the end of February.
“Without donors reversing the suspension decision, it would have meant being unable to provide life-saving assistance to over 2 million people by the end of February,” Marta Lorenzo, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office for Europe, warned.
Allegations of UNRWA staff involvement in Hamas’ attack on Israel in October 2023 led to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s Commissioner General, terminated the contracts of accused staff members and initiated an investigation.
Sixteen countries, including major contributors like the United States and Germany, suspended funding, totaling $546 million out of UNRWA’s $1.16 billion annual budget.
Ms. Lorenzo highlighted the impact of the funding suspension on humanitarian aid and education for 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza.
She added, “We were talking about more than one million people sheltering in our installations. We were the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza.”
The potential funding shortfall jeopardized essential services for millions of Palestinians in Gaza and neighboring regions.
Ms. Lorenzo underscored the broader regional implications, stating, “Our work was important beyond Gaza. It was crucial to maintaining regional stability.”
Emphasizing UNRWA’s role, she noted, “When I say education, it means education to over half a million children and social services to the poorest of the poor, those people living on less than $1.80 per person per day.”
With the investigation ongoing and the funding suspension in effect, the situation remained precarious for millions of Palestinians relying on UNRWA’s assistance.