Reinstate UNWRA funding to prevent total humanitarian collapse

Australian Council for International Development

Media release | Thursday, 29 February 2024

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) is urging the federal government to reinstate funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) so the agency can pay workers delivering lifesaving aid.

ACFID CEO Marc Purcell has warned UNRWA’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance in Gaza is set to end in just over a month unless member states reinstate funding.

“UNRWA is the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza,” he said.

“The time for Australia to show leadership on the international stage by reinstating funding is now, so that other donors can see that the Australian government has confidence in UNRWA’s response.

“The humanitarian catastrophe we are seeing in Gaza is on the brink of collapse, with a possible invasion of Rafah putting further strain on the little capacity that UNRWA has left.

“ACFID is calling on the Australian government to prioritize the humanitarian need in Gaza, recognize UNRWA’s commitment to neutrality and immediately reinstate its $6 million aid package. It is the right thing to do.

“It is crucial to maintain peace and security in Gaza, the West Bank and the wider region. The collapse of UNRWA throughout the Middle East would be detrimental to the security of all who rely on its services, and those countries hosting them.”

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the West Bank is dire, with aid convoys coming under constant fire and denied access by Israeli authorities to areas where assistance is most needed. Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza strip, 70 per cent of them women and children. Meanwhile, there are 1.7 million people in emergency shelters.

A letter from UNRWA Commissioner-General of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini to the United Nations General Assembly this week warned of a catastrophe waiting to happen unless funding was reinstated. Mr Lazzarini said the agency’s ability to fulfil its mandate was “seriously threatened.”

/Public Release.