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UN chief urges donors to continue funding UNRWA’s efforts in Gaza Strip

UN chief urges donors to continue funding UNRWA’s efforts in Gaza Strip
28 Jan 2024 20:31

ABU DHABI (ALETIHAD)

On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a compelling appeal to donor countries that have halted their contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), urging them to resume funding to ensure the agency's continued operations.

This appeal follows the suspension of contributions by the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, Britain, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and France, in response to Israeli accusations of 12 UNRWA employees’ involvement in the October 7 attack.

In a statement, Guterres expressed understanding for the concerns of donor countries but emphasised the critical need to maintain UNRWA’s operations.

He assured that any UN employee implicated in the attacks would face accountability, including potential criminal prosecution, and that the Secretariat is prepared to cooperate with any competent authority in such matters.
He informed that 9 of the 12 accused employees had been dismissed and one was confirmed deceased, adding that efforts were underway to establish the identities of the remaining two.

Francesca Albanese, the Special Rapporteur for the United Nations on Palestine, criticised the suspending countries, accusing them of contributing to genocide. Concurrently, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs appealed to these countries to reconsider their decision, warning of a campaign aimed at disbanding UNRWA.

In a statement on the X platform, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi stressed the importance of UNRWA, describing it as a vital support system for over two million Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom face hunger.

Safadi, after a conversation with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, highlighted UNRWA’s crucial role in providing humanitarian aid amidst the Israeli aggression on Gaza. He called for continued international support to enable UNRWA’s services in Gaza, where residents are threatened with famine.

Safadi and Lazzarini jointly urged the countries that suspended their support to reconsider their decisions, emphasising the agency's role in providing basic necessities to over two million Palestinians in Gaza, including shelter for about one million of the 1.9 million displaced since the war's onset.

Lazzarini disclosed that the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, the UN's highest investigative body, was conducting an independent and transparent investigation into the involvement of 12 UNRWA employees in the October 7 attack, leading to the termination of their contracts. He stressed that the investigation would establish facts, while an independent review by external experts would help enhance UNRWA's commitment to humanitarian principles.

Both Safadi and Lazzarini warned that any funding shortfall for UNRWA, crucial in Gaza, would severely impact its humanitarian services, exacerbating the suffering of its residents, who have received only a fraction of their needs since the war began.

Echoing this sentiment, Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin affirmed on the X platform Ireland's unwavering support for UNRWA. He expressed full confidence in Lazzarini's decision to suspend the implicated employees, noting the agency’s life-saving assistance to 2.3 million people, despite the loss of over 140 employees in recent months. Martin confirmed Ireland's commitment to continuing its support for UNRWA’s vital work in Gaza.

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