Updated January 28th, 2024 at 09:38 IST

UNRWA Chief Expresses 'Grave Concerns' after 9 Countries Including US & UK Pause Funding

The head of the UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, expressed grave concerns after nine countries announced that they are pausing providing funds to the aid agency.

Reported by: Bhagyasree Sengupta
Smoke rises from the Israeli airstrike inside the Gaza strip. | Image:AP

Gaza – Amid the raving Israel-Hamas war, the head of the UN Refugee Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, expressed grave concerns after nine countries including the US and the UK announced that they are pausing providing funds to the aid agency. The country started suspending funds to the body after allegations emerged that the UNRWA staff were involved in the devastating October 7 massacre which eventually led to the commencement of an all-out war between Israel and Hamas. Lazzarini insisted that he was surprised by the chain of events and insisted that the body was “forced to suspend” its humanitarian response in the region. 

"These decisions threaten our ongoing humanitarian work across the region including and especially in the Gaza Strip," Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini," said in a statement as per the reports from Sky News. "UNRWA is the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza, with over two million people depending on it for their sheer survival. Some 3,000 core staff out of 13,000 in Gaza continue to report to work, giving their communities a lifeline which can collapse anytime now due to lack of funding," he added. Lazzarini's proclamation came a day after the agency noted that it had opened an investigation into several employees and severed ties with those people who were accused of being involved in Hamas' operation in southern Israel on October 7.   


What went down?

Countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, the United States, etc. announced that they will pause funding to UNRWA on Saturday. The allegations were hurled by the Israeli authorities after a thorough investigation and the country's Foreign Minister Israel Katz mentioned that the body should be replaced once the fighting dies down in the coastal enclave. “The U.S., Canada, Finland, Australia, Italy, and the UK have stopped funding @UNRWA due to staff involvement in the October 7 massacre. I call for more nations to join in.  @UNRWA's ties with Hamas, providing refuge for terrorists, and perpetuating its rule are undeniable,” Katz wrote on X, formally known as Twitter. “The leadership of @UNRWA should be dismissed and thoroughly investigated for their knowledge of these activities. In Gaza's rebuilding, @UNRWA must be replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development,” he added.


Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority foreign ministry criticized the whole ordeal and accused Israel of launching a smear campaign against the aid agency, The Times of Israel reported. The UNRWA was set up in Gaza to help refugees of the 1948 conflict which led to the formation of Israel. The agency provides education, health and aid services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, The Times of Israel reported. 


Published January 28th, 2024 at 09:38 IST