United Nations' Refugee Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA)

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is United Nations' refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA)?
  • News Summary: United Nations' refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA)
  • What has Israel accused UNRWA of?
  • How has UNRWA responded?
  • What happens now?

Why in news?

  • UN officials have urged countries to reconsider their decision to suspend the funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
  • Recently, Israel accused some of the agency’s staff members of involvement in the October 7 attack.
  • After this, the US and eight other Western countries, which together provided more than half of UNRWA’s 2022 budget, cut the money.

What is United Nations' Refugee Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA)?

  • About
    • UNRWA stands for UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. 
    • It was founded in 1949 to provide aid to about 700,000 Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
  • Working region
    • The UN agency operates in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan — countries where the refugees took shelter after their expulsion.
  • Areas of work
    • The agency runs education, health, relief and social services, microfinance and emergency assistance programmes inside and outside refugee camps based in the aforementioned areas.
  • Funding
    • UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions by donor states like the US. 
    • It also gets a limited subsidy from the UN, which is used only for administrative costs.
  • Performance
    • Currently, around 5.9 million Palestine refugees — most of them are descendants of original refugees — access the agency’s services.
    • In Gaza, over 1 million are sheltering in UNRWA schools and other facilities.

News Summary: United Nations' Refugee Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA)

  • Recently, United Nations (UN) officials urged countries to reconsider their decision to pause funding for the UN agency for Palestinians.
  • It also said that any staff found involved in Hamas' attack on Israel would be punished and warned that aid for some two million people in Gaza was at stake.

What has Israel accused UNRWA of?

  • Israel has alleged that 12 staff members of UNRWA were involved in the October 7 attack. 
  • It has also claimed that Hamas siphons off funds given to UNRWA and fights from in and around the agency’s facilities.
  • Israel has alleged that Hamas tunnels are running next to or under UNRWA facilities and accuses the agency of teaching hatred of Israel in its schools.

How has UNRWA responded?

  • The UNRWA has denied all the allegations, saying it has no links to Hamas. 
  • In the statement, UN officials said out of 12 staff members who were accused of being involved in the attack, nine have been terminated. 
  • One is confirmed dead and the identity of the two others is being clarified.

What happens now?

  • UNRWA is crucial for the survival of people living in Gaza, which has plunged into a humanitarian crisis after the outbreak of the conflict. 
  • The agency has been the main supplier of food, water and shelter to civilians of the enclave. 
  • UNRWA, however, would run out of money needed for its aid work within weeks if the funding is not restored.

Q1) What is What is Gaza strip?

The Gaza Strip is a 140 square mile narrow strip of land in the southwest corner of Israel. It's located along the Mediterranean Sea and shares a border with Egypt to the south. The Gaza Strip is one of two Palestinian territories, the other being the West Bank.

Q2) What is the United Nations (UN)?

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization that was established in 1945 by 51 countries. The UN's mission is to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, and promote social progress, better living standards, and human rights.


Source: What is UNRWA, and why have Western countries paused its funding amid Gaza war? | UN