Recent suspensions of funding by some countries to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) risks essential aid to 2 million Gazans already facing famine and exacerbates an already dire situation, according to Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Palestine, Manu Pineda MEP.

Shortly after the International Court of Justice issued its judgment calling on Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza, UNRWA announced that it had launched an investigation into allegations that 12 members of its staff were involved in the October 7 attacks.

The commissioner general of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, said that he had received information from the Israeli authorities about the alleged involvement of several staff members. “To protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay,” he stated on Friday.

Despite these actions, a number of EU member states including Germany, Austria, France, Italy, and the Netherlands immediately suspended funds to the UN agency. The European Commission also said that no additional funding to UNRWA is foreseen until the end of February.

Reacting to these dangerous, knee-jerk suspensions, Left MEP and Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to Palestine, Manu Pineda, Izquierda Unida Spain, said:  “I am deeply concerned by the decision of some donor countries to suspend their funding to UNRWA. Given the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, any temporary suspension of funding could jeopardise vital humanitarian work not only for Gazans but for the entire region. The terrible conditions under which the Agency’s staff is forced to work already make their work extremely difficult. At least 150 UNRWA workers have been killed so far.”

As the largest humanitarian organisation in Gaza, 2 million civilians currently depend on UNRWA for their basic survival. Food is already scarce and famine is a constant threat. UNRWA has over 30,000 employees. It runs shelters and provides primary healthcare in an already hostile environment. In the wider region, UNRWA provides vital healthcare and education to over 6 million Palestinian refugees.

Cutting funding in this way can have devastating consequences. Punishing an entire population for the alleged actions of several staff members is both irresponsible and dangerous.

The ICJ ruled that Israel must take “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” These are measures aimed at preventing genocide. The EU should be doing everything in its power to guarantee unhindered access to humanitarian aid.

“I would like to recall that UNRWA has for many years played a vital role in assisting vulnerable Palestinian refugees to access essential services such as education and health, and is a key partner of the international community, including the EU”, concluded Pineda. “In the light of the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice, reinforcing UNRWA’s work seems even more crucial to the daily survival of the Palestinian people.”

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