30 JANUARY 2024
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is deeply concerned about the suspension of Australia’s funding to the UN’s main agency providing aid in Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
The suspension follows an allegation made by the Israeli authorities about involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October 2023. The UN agency immediately terminated the contracts of these staff members and launched an investigation to establish the truth without delay.
The suspension of funding by Australia represents a further deepening of the catastrophe of Gaza. 1.4 million people in Gaza are refugees reliant on UNRWA for basic health care, schooling and food. UNRWA, as the main humanitarian organisation in Gaza, is providing shelter to 1.2 million displaced Gazans through its 165 schools in the midst of the war. The funding suspension by many donor governments will accelerate famine and disease already present in occupied Gaza. The 13,000 UNRWA staff in Gaza must be able to remain at work and assist this critical situation, without them, thousands more Gazans will perish. 151 UNRWA staff in the Gaza Strip have been killed by Israeli bombing since the war began.
Further, UNRWA is assisting millions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Education and health services will also be affected by this suspension with dire consequences to populations already impoverished and dislocated.
Helen Clark, former PM of New Zealand/Aotearoa and former head of the UN Development Program, today called the suspension of funding to UNWRA ‘completely disproportionate’ and called on States to uphold humanitarian principles and maintain assistance. Norway and Ireland are amongst those adhering to this principle and continuing funding to UNRWA.
Union Aid Abroad urges the Australian government to reconsider this decision and restore funding, as UNRWA is critical to the delivery of vital services. At a minimum, Australia must support UNRWA to undertake any investigation swiftly so funding can be resumed as soon as possible.
This situation further underlies why an immediate ceasefire and full humanitarian access are both absolutely necessary in Gaza.
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA reiterates our previous call for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages: