With 102 workers killed, UN agency in Gaza struggles to provide aid | ET REALITY


Almost all of the agency’s funding comes from donations from countries including the United States, Germany and the European Union, but it has struggled financially for years.

UNRWA entered 2023 with a debt of $75 million and asked donors for $1.6 billion for its annual budget, Ms. Touma said. But she had received less than half that amount when the war began. It has now asked for an additional $481 million, mainly for Gaza.

As the war continues, most of the agency’s services are on hold while it focuses on providing emergency aid. More than half of Gaza’s population has been displaced due to Israel’s air campaign, and Israel has imposed a strict blockade, vowing not to allow food, water or fuel into the territory. In recent weeks, only a few aid trucks have entered Gaza through its border with Egypt.

The agency’s schools are closed and many of them are now among the more than 150 UNRWA facilities that provide shelter to 730,000 people, the agency says.

Instead of running 14 food distribution centers, the agency is providing flour and fuel to bakeries, where Gazans often queue for hours for bread.

The killings and displacements of UNRWA staff and their inability to replenish their supplies have greatly limited their work, Ms. Touma said.

“We have seen in this war that food, water and fuel are used as weapons of war,” he said.

It is too early to say how the war will end and who will end up administering Gaza. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has suggested that the territory could eventually be reunited with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and governed by the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians.

But on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said his country must maintain security control over Gaza “for as long as necessary” and ruled out the possibility of the Palestinian Authority playing a role there.

Until a longer-term agreement is reached, UNRWA will likely remain the organization best placed to serve the population, experts say, although the blows of war could leave it ill-equipped to do so.

“The scale of this is really unlike anything we’ve seen,” he said. Anne Irfan professor at University College London and author of a recent book about UNRWA, in reference to the Israeli bombing of Gaza. “It’s really hard to see where we go from here unless really serious resources are channeled into UNRWA.”

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