Monday, March 4, 2024

UN aid chief warns of ‘collapse’ in Gaza humanitarian relief over UNRWA as death toll nears 27k

Martin Griffiths, the United Nations’s undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, has warned that the defunding of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency “would result in the collapse” of the aid system in the Gaza Strip.

The withdrawal of funds from UNRWA – which several mostly Western countries have announced – was “perilous”, Griffith said, and would have “far-reaching consequences” in the occupied Palestinian territories and the region.

“The world cannot abandon the people of Gaza”, Griffiths added in a joint statement with other humanitarian organisation leaders on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also appealed to major donors to resume funding the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees in a closed-door meeting of 35 countries on Tuesday.

The UN chief is said to have briefed ambassadors on measures he has already taken in response to accusations that 12 staff members at the agency participated in the October 7 attacks on Israel.

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters after the meeting that Guterres had appealed to countries to “reconsider” their decision and praised those like Norway and Spain for not suspending aid.

A growing number of countries and organisations have voiced their concern that abrupt funding cuts from some of UNRWA’s largest donors will have severe humanitarian implications on the ground in Gaza.

The UN’s new humanitarian coordinator has also announced that no organization can replace or substitute the “tremendous capacity” of the UNRWA.

“I think you’ve heard the Secretary-General and other agencies, and they’ve been very clear. At the moment, beyond political decisions, which are GA (General Assembly) bound, there is no way any organization can replace or substitute the tremendous capacity, the fabric of UNRWA, their ability and their knowledge of the population in Gaza,” Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, said during a news conference following a closed session on Gaza at the UN Security Council.

The main issues discussed during the UN Security Council session were supply routes to Gaza and distribution across the enclave as well as the establishment of the UN mechanism, according to Kaag.

“This is not about counting trucks.”

“This is about volume, quality, speed and continuous delivery of humanitarian and commercial goods to reach the civilians of Gaza, and the mechanism went up and running and can really help facilitate that. It helps us to track, it helps us to enhance the transparency that we know what’s coming in…It helps with the verification and obviously to know if it really reached the civilian population,” she added.

It came as Tel Aviv alleged that some of the UN agency’s employees were involved in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

The Israeli claims pushed some several countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and others, to suspend their funds to the agency.

At least 26,900 Palestinians have been killed and 65,949 wounded in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, the health ministry in Gaza announced in a statement on Wednesday.

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