UNRWA Remains Indispensable Until Political Solution Is At Hand: Agency Chief

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UNRWA remains indispensable until political solution is at hand:  agency chief

The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Monday reaffirmed that the agency was the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza, noting that it would remain essential for a viable transition from ceasefire to "day after"

UNITED NATIONS, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 24th Jun, 2024) The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Monday reaffirmed that the agency was the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza, noting that it would remain essential for a viable transition from ceasefire to "day after".

In a statement during the agency's Advisory Commission meeting held in Geneva, the agency's Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said, "UNRWA was created 75 years ago as a temporary agency. A stop-gap measure, pending a political answer to the question of Palestine. The Agency exists today because a political solution does not. It exists in lieu of a state that can deliver critical public services."

He warned that that the agency “will crumble” unless funding was found quickly, with an “entire generation” of children at risk of being condemned to “poverty…hatred, resentment and future conflict”.

In a plea for political and financial support from member states, Lazzarini underscored that the agency was “staggering under the weight of relentless attacks in Gaza”, after nearly nine months of intense Israeli bombardment and ground operations.

“The pressures on the agency today are greater than ever before,” he insisted.

In addition to the 193 UNRWA personnel killed since October 7, Lazzarini detailed the sheer scale of the destruction to UN premises.

More than 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed since October 7 and “at least 500 people” have been killed seeking protection under the UN flag, he explained. “Our convoys have come under attack despite coordinated movement with Israeli authorities in the West Bank…operational space is shrinking.”

Highlighting how Gaza is now “a living hell” for more than two million people there, the senior humanitarian official noted that children continued to die of malnutrition and dehydration, “while food and clean water wait in trucks” outside the enclave.

And amid increasing reports of a collapse in law and order, Lazzarini pointed to rampant looting and smuggling now happening, delaying the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Among Gaza’s most vulnerable, children are among the worst-affected by the ongoing war, he insisted, with more than 625,000 “deeply traumatized” youngsters “living in the rubble” and without access to education.

“Some 300,000 of them were enrolled in nearly 290 UNRWA schools before the war but those who are now out of school are at risk of violence and exploitation, child labour, early marriage, and recruitment by armed groups,” the UNRWA chief insisted.

“Without decisive intervention to resume education, we will condemn an entire generation to poverty and sow the seeds of hatred, resentment, and future conflict.”

While Gazans repeatedly displaced by the war “are clinging to life”, the UNRWA chief issued an equally bleak assessment of the situation in the occupied West Bank, where some 500 Palestinians have been killed since October.

“Daily attacks by Israeli settlers, military incursions, and the destruction of homes and critical infrastructure are part of a well-oiled system of segregation and oppression,” the Commissioner-General said.

Intensifying clashes on the Israel-Lebanon border also threaten a “full-blown war”, Lazzarini continued, as he pointed to millions of “anxious and afraid” Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan watching events in Gaza and the West Bank unfold.

“Most have been living in camps for generations, often with limited rights and in grinding poverty, waiting for a political solution that will bring an end to their plight. Today, they are witnessing the greatest Palestinian tragedy since the Nakba,” he said, in reference to the 1948 events that led to the uprooting of some 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.

“As they have done for 75 years, they are looking to UNRWA for protection and the fulfillment of basic human rights.”

In an appeal for support to scale up UNRWA’s assistance to Palestine refugees, Lazzarini raised the possibility of the agency not being operational “beyond August”.

This depended on UNRWA receiving both planned financial donations and new contributions, he explained, adding that $1.2 billion was needed to cover critical humanitarian needs until the end of the year. To date, the appeal was only 18 per cent funded.