The UN agency for Palestinian refugees provides support to about two million Palestinians in Gaza
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The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, has been at the centre of a political storm this weekend after major countries announced they were suspending funding to the agency.
The US, UK, EU, France, Germany and Japan, among others, made the announcement after Israel alleged that UNRWA staff members took part in Hamas’s October 7 attack.
The agency said it is investigating the report and has dismissed nine of the 12 staff accused by Israel.
“Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement.
The suspension of funds is expected to have a major impact on nearly two million Palestinians who rely on UNRWA for support inside the Gaza Strip, according to the agency.
The agency is the largest humanitarian entity operating inside the Gaza Strip and has provided vital support for Palestinians during the humanitarian crisis caused by almost four months of war.
“If the funding is not resumed, UNRWA will not be able to continue its services and operations across the region, including in Gaza, beyond the end of February,” a spokesperson for the agency said on Monday.
Here is everything you need to know about UNRWA, and how the suspension of funding will impact the Middle East.
Established in 1949, UNRWA’s main goal was to help refugees of the 1948 war. About 750,000 Palestinians were displaced during the war and the subsequent creation of the state of Israel.
The agency’s official name is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. It aims to provide education, health and aid services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
When the agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees.
Today, some 5.9 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services, according to the agency’s website.
The agency counts 2.3 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, almost 1.5 million in Gaza, 871,000 in the West Bank, 568,000 in Syria, and 489,000 in Lebanon.
“UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, healthcare, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance,” said a statement by the agency.
Palestinians displaced from their homes in what is now Israel make up the majority of the crowded Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people.
The enclave is home to several sprawling refugee camps where people live in makeshift housing.
UNRWA runs shelters for refugees registered in Gaza and provides food and primary healthcare services.