Ireland to give UNRWA $33 million as under-fire aid agency faces cash crunch

The UN Palestinian refugee agency has been pitched into crisis after countries paused funding.

The UN Palestinian refugee agency has been pitched into crisis after countries paused funding. Photo: EPA

Ireland has announced 20 million euros ($33 million) in support for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) and urged countries that have suspended funding to resume and expand support to the agency.

UNRWA, which provides health care, education and other services, has been pitched into crisis since Israel alleged that 12 of its 13,000 staff in Gaza were involved in the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel that precipitated the Israel-Hamas war.

The allegations prompted a number of countries to suspend funding, including the United States, its largest donor, and Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and others.

Dublin contributed 18 million euros ($30 million) directly to UNRWA in 2023, part of 36 million euros ($59 million) provided to the Palestinian people.

Ireland has long been a champion of Palestinian rights and its announcement on Thursday follows a commitment by Spain last week to send UNRWA an additional 3.5 million euros ($5.8 million) in aid, and an announcement of an extra one million euros ($1.6 million) from Portugal.

“I urge other donors to resume and expand support to UNRWA so that it can deliver for the millions of Palestinian refugees in need,” Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said in a statement after meeting UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini in Dublin on Thursday.

The UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) says it faces a cash crunch from next month that will only get worse in April if funding suspended by a number of countries does not resume.

“We will hit a negative cashflow as from March and then it will be accelerated in April unless this frozen contribution is unlocked,” Lazzarini told Irish national broadcaster RTE before his meeting with Martin.

Negative cashflow is when an organisation has more money outgoing than incoming, affecting its ability to sustain itself.

Lazzarini has held extensive consultations with donors, including a trip to Gulf countries and Brussels, in recent days to try to plug UNRWA’s funding shortfall of some $US440 million ($677 million).

Some UNRWA donors, such as the United States and Britain, have indicated they will not resume support until the UN’s internal investigation into the allegations ends.

A preliminary report is due to be published in the next several weeks.

“If we don’t get (the funding), we will be in trouble and our ability to operate will be compromised,” Lazzarini told RTE, calling on the donors to review their decision.

Lazzarini said earlier this week that calls for UNRWA to be dismantled were short-sighted and terminating its mandate would deepen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.


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