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Shocked Humanitarian Agencies Decry Funding Cutoff to UNRWA

A coalition of 28 humanitarian agencies that provide aid to Gaza have issued a statement expressing outrage over the decision by a group of countries to suspend funding of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) over allegations of staff involvement in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel. This is a “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 statement charged. Published by the Norwegian Refugee Council, it welcomed the swift investigation into the allegations against the group made by Israel but noted that the defunding decision came just as the International Court of Justice ordered “immediate and effective action to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.”

“UNRWA is the largest humanitarian agency in Gaza and their delivery of humanitarian assistance cannot be replaced by other agencies working in Gaza,” the statement warned. Those countries that have suspended aid “risk further depriving Palestinians in the region of essential food, water, medical assistance and supplies, education and protection…. 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.” Among the 28 signatories are Oxfam, Save the Children, ActionAid, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the American Friends Service Committee.

As reported by Voice of America, Christian Lindmeier, spokesman for the World Health Organization, usefully commented on the media storm that has erupted around the accusations of UNRWA’s alleged Hamas connections. He said, “Criminal activity can never go unpunished, but that discussion right now is a distraction from what is really going on every day, every hour, every minute in Gaza. It is a distraction from the more than 27,000 deaths right now, of which 70% are women and children. It is a distraction from preventing an entire population from access to clean water, food, shelter. It is a distraction from preventing electricity from coming into Gaza for more than 100 days.”