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UNRWA chief visits Gulf countries amid funding crisis

1 min

The head of the main U.N. Palestinian relief agency (UNRWA) is visiting three Gulf states this week, seeking to drum up support after key donors suspended funding following Israeli allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 attack.

Philippe Lazzarini with the PM of Qatar

The head of the main U.N. Palestinian relief agency (UNRWA) is visiting three Gulf states this week, seeking to drum up support after key donors suspended funding following Israeli allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 attack.

Some 15 of the agency's most important donors, including the United States, have suspended funding over Israel's allegations involving 12 of its 13,000 staff, prompting UNRWA to warn last week that it might be forced to shut down by the end of February.

U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has previously said nine of those implicated had been terminated, one was dead and the identities of the other two were being clarified.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on X he met with the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday to discuss UNRWA's work in "preserving the stability in the region" and delivering aid to two million people in Gaza.

Spokesperson Juliette Touma told Reuters that Lazzarini would then visit Qatar and Kuwait later this week.

"We are hoping those that paused (funding) will reconsider and others will step forward as well," she said.

Kuwait and Qatar occupy the number 19 and 20 spots in UNRWA's list of top 20 donors, giving $12 million and $10.5 million each in 2022. The United Arab Emirates was not listed.

UNRWA, set up in 1949 after the war surrounding the founding of Israel, provides critical education, health and aid services to millions of Palestinians across Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In Gaza, it is providing shelter for some one million people newly displaced by the Israel-Hamas conflict.

While some countries like Spain and private donors have stepped up to help the agency since the financial crisis began last month, Touma said that it was not nearly enough to offset the gap estimated at about $440 million.

Reporting by Emma Farge

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