The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a stark warning, emphasising that halting funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, will result in catastrophic consequences for the residents of Gaza.
In a press conference held in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, “Decisions by various countries to pause funds for UNRWA, the largest supplier of humanitarian aid in this crisis, will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza.”
He highlighted the unique capacity of UNRWA to provide essential assistance to the 2.2 million people in Gaza and appealed for a reconsideration of the funding suspensions. “No other entity has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of assistance that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need,” Tedros stressed, and he added, “We appeal for these announcements to be reconsidered.”
Tedros reiterated the urgent need for safe access for humanitarian personnel and supplies, the release of hostages, and the protection of healthcare facilities. Additionally, he emphasised the ongoing call for a ceasefire in the region.
Expressing concern over the grim situation in Gaza, Tedros noted that over 100,000 Gazans are either dead, injured, missing, or presumed dead as of Wednesday. Reports of food shortages for medical staff and patients are on the rise, heightening the risk of famine due to persistent hostilities and restricted humanitarian access.
The funding suspensions by at least 12 countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, and the United States, followed allegations by Tel Aviv that some UNRWA staff were involved in a cross-border attack on Israel. The Israeli government has sought to discredit UNRWA staff, equating them with Hamas members without providing evidence. Israel’s objective is to close UNRWA, contending that without the agency, the refugee issue would be invalidated, negating the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land.
UNRWA responded by terminating contracts with several employees implicated in the Israeli allegations and initiating an internal investigation.
The Israeli offensive on Gaza has led to a significant humanitarian crisis, with thousands of Palestinian casualties, internal displacement, and severe damage to infrastructure. The UN reports that 85% of Gaza’s population is internally displaced, facing shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.