Gaza: Famine looms even as UNRWA funding crisis raises concerns
30 January 2024
As, the Secretary-General meets with 35 Member States, as well as the European Union today to discuss the Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, following serious allegations of collusion with Hamas. While the Secretary General will share actions being taken to deal with the allegation and will listen to Member States' concerns, he will again underscore the importance of the humanitarian work that UNRWA does every day in Gaza and in the region. A full and urgent investigation is underway and some of the staff allegedly involved have been dismissed by the agency.
Despite ongoing Israeli bombardment prompted by Hamas-led attacks on 7 October that left some 1,200 dead in Israel and more than 250 hostages, UNRWA continues to provide lifesaving aid in Gaza to more than two million civilians.
The war has killed at least 26,637 Palestinians in Gaza and left 65,387 injured, according to the enclave's health authorities. The Israeli military has reported 218 soldiers killed and 1,267 injured in Gaza.
As the largest humanitarian agency in the enclave, UNRWA also operates shelters for over one million people, providing food, water and healthcare services, while also playing the key role of facilitating the work of other UN and partner agencies there.
Critical support to Gazans needs to continue
“While we’re addressing these concerns very actively, the humanitarian work needs to go on,” UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at the Noon Briefing at Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.
“Civilians in Gaza who are suffering, need the continued support of everyone,” he said. “The critical humanitarian work the UN does not only in Gaza, in the region, needs to be supported. People’s lives depend on it.”
Several major donors have halted funds pending probes into Israel’s allegations late last week that 12 of UNRWA’s 30,000 staff members colluded with Hamas in the 7 October attacks that left 1,200 Israelis dead and 250 taken hostage. UNRWA launched an independent review of the agency’s humanitarian operations on 17 January.
‘The UN does not work with Hamas’
Emphasizing that every year, UNRWA shares with Israel and the Palestinian Authority its staff member lists for Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, Mr. Dujarric said “no concerns” had been raised by either.
“UNRWA does not work with Hamas,” he said. “We have operational contact with de facto authorities like in other countries.”
The UN has yet to receive any reports directly from Israel about the allegations in writing, he said. Meanwhile, a thorough investigation is under way and the UN has fired several agency staff members implicated in the allegations. Media reports indicate that two of the suspects are dead.
“Our aim is for a humanitarian ceasefire, for greater volume and quality of aid going in, and for a political solution that would lead us back to the two-State solution,” the UN Spokesperson said.
Some have resorted to scouring aid convoys for food and supplies, including one on Tuesday morning in the southern city of Khan Younis.
“We had a convoy just this morning trying to reach Nasser Hospital with patients, healthcare staff, everybody there needing food, but the very needy population already before basically took the supplies,” Mr. Lindmeier said.
The incident – far from a rare occurrence – “shows how dire the needs are”, he told journalists in Geneva, warning that disease among Gaza’s malnourished population “can just spread like wildfire and that’s on top of the bombing and the shelling and the collapsing buildings”.
Within Nasser Hospital itself, the WHO official reported that the situation “has only gotten worse", with "the shooting, the fighting…the difficulty of access for people to reach Nasser or the difficulty of leaving”.
An edited version of this article first appeared on UN News here and here. For more information about the UN's work in the Occupied Territory of Palestine, visit palestine.un.org.