The funds from Norway will go to UNRWA’s efforts to provide assistance to the 5.9 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The war in Gaza is having a severe impact on Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East. They are dependent on UNRWA for access to many basic services, including education and health care. The situation is tense in several other countries as well.
‘People in Gaza are starving. Health services have collapsed. In addition to all of the ramifications of the war, many are dying from infectious diseases and due to a lack of health care. Our support for UNRWA’s efforts is more important than ever,’ said Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim.
UNRWA is in a critical financial situation. A number of major donors are withholding funding following allegations that 12 of the organisation’s 13 000 staff in Gaza were involved in Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October.
‘These allegations are shocking and we expect full transparency. There must be zero tolerance for such actions. However, we should not collectively punish millions of people for the alleged wrongdoing of 12 staff members. I urge all donors that have suspended their support to think about the consequences. The situation is dire not only for the population of Gaza, but also for Palestinians throughout the Middle East,’ said Mr Eide.
The allegations against the 12 UNRWA employees have already been referred to the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). An investigation is underway and an interim report will be submitted in late March 2024. The UN Secretary-General has also appointed an independent Review Group to carry out a broad assessment of UNRWA’s work. The Chr. Michelsens Institute (CMI) in Norway is participating in the review.
‘There are people in Gaza who were refugees before the war started and who have now been forced to flee once again. The scale of humanitarian need is immense. The population are living under conditions of great hardship. It is very difficult for humanitarian organisations to gain access and virtually impossible to get commercial goods into Gaza. It is UNRWA that distributes most of the goods that enter Gaza and the organisation plays a critical role in providing life-saving assistance to the population,’ said Ms Tvinnereim.
The UN staff in Gaza are working at risk to their own lives. More than 150 UNRWA staff have been killed since the war began.
UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949. Its mandate is to provide assistance and protection for Palestinian refugees, including meeting fundamental needs such as food, education, health care and shelter. It is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.
‘UNRWA is much more than a humanitarian organisation. It represents a commitment by the international community to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian refugees until a political solution to the conflict has been reached. It is completely out of the question for Norway to back out of this commitment, at a time when Gaza is essentially in ruins,’ said Mr Eide.