The leaders of InterAction, CARE, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, and Refugees International are calling on donors to restore funds for UNRWA.
“The U.S. decision to temporarily pause funding for UNRWA will dramatically weaken the backbone of the humanitarian response for 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza. It is important to ensure a thorough investigation into the grave allegations by the Israeli government that 12 UNRWA employees directly participated in the heinous attacks on October 7, and to ensure full transparency and accountability going forward. But the investigation and any subsequent accountability measures must not derail the critical, lifesaving work of UNRWA in Gaza and throughout the region.
“The plain reality is that UNRWA’s humanitarian role in this crisis is indispensable and cannot remotely be replaced by any other aid organization. UNRWA employs more than 13,000 staff in Gaza, of whom 152 have been killed since the fighting began. This funding pause also poses major problems for UNRWA’s mission and its more than 30,000 staff throughout the wider region. It is imperative that the United States and other donors resume support to UNRWA as rapidly as possible to avoid damaging the Gaza aid operation at a critical time.
“The allegations made against the former UNRWA staff are deeply serious and merit credible investigation. UNRWA has taken appropriately swift action to fire the accused individuals and notify the U.S. government and other donors, and Secretary-General Guterres immediately launched an investigation. There should be prompt accountability for any individuals proven to be involved, and if the investigation finds larger systemic breakdowns, those too must be addressed.
“But the civilians who depend on UNRWA for lifesaving aid at a time of enormous peril and suffering should not be punished as a result. Other aid agencies cannot replicate UNRWA’s central role in the humanitarian response in Gaza, and amidst the current crisis, many will struggle to even maintain their current operations without UNRWA’s partnership and support. Over 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in UNRWA facilities across Gaza. UNRWA’s 13,000 staff in Gaza far outstrip the collective capacity of the rest of the humanitarian sector in the territory. Their role in the facilitation and delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid at scale in this crisis has been heroic.
“UNRWA’s supply of vital shelter, food, and basic services like sanitation, as well as the use of infrastructure by other aid organizations, is irreplaceable. UNRWA staff have faced near-impossible conditions for months: in addition to the UNRWA staff killed by military strikes, at least 360 people in UNRWA shelters have been killed by strikes; more than 1,300 have been injured, and 145 UNRWA installations have been damaged. UNRWA workers continue to serve their community amid this unprecedented violence.
“The undersigned NGOs call on the United States and international donors to rapidly resume funding for UNRWA while simultaneously supporting a rigorous and credible investigation of the allegations. Accountability is crucial but can and must be achieved without further devastating Gaza’s civilian population.”
International Rescue Committee
Norwegian Refugee Council
Save the Children