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Home / News / Ireland to give €20m to UNRWA, says Martin

Ireland to give €20m to UNRWA, says Martin

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has announced €20 million in support for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).

Mr Martin made the announcement at a news conference following a meeting in Dublin with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

He also urged countries that have suspended funding to resume and expand support to the agency.

UNRWA, which provides healthcare, education and other services, has been pitched into crisis since Israel alleged that 12 of its 13,000 staff in Gaza were involved in the 7 October Hamas-led attack on Israel that precipitated the war in Gaza.

The allegations prompted a number of countries to suspend funding, including the United States, its largest donor.

Ireland contributed €18m directly to UNRWA in 2023, part of €36m provided to the Palestinian people.

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“I urge other donors to resume and expand support to UNRWA so that it can deliver for the millions of Palestinian refugees in need,” Mr Martin said.

UNRWA said the cash crunch it is facing next month will get far worse in April if it cannot secure fresh funding or convince donors to resume suspended contributions.

Mr Lazzarini urged countries that have suspended funding to “urgently rescind that decision” and resume and expand their support.

“Our operation will start to be compromised as from March but April will be really the month where we will be under deep, deep, deep negative cashflow,” Mr Lazzarini told the news conference, describing the agency as being under an “existential threat”.

Children seen amidst the rubble of destroyed buildings in Gaza City

Negative cashflow is when an organisation has more money outgoing than incoming, impacting its ability to sustain itself.

Mr Lazzarini has held extensive consultations with donors, including a trip to Gulf countries and Brussels, in recent days to try to plug UNRWA’s funding shortfall of some $440 million.

Some UNRWA donors, such as the United States and Britain, have indicated they will not resume support until the UN’s internal investigation into the allegations ends. A preliminary report is due to be published in the next several weeks.

Mr Lazzarini said the UN would share some observations with member states on its investigation within four weeks.

“At such a dangerous moment, it would be inconceivable to let UNRWA collapse,” Mr Martin said.

“People need to wake up internationally about this.”

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier, Mr Lazzarini said that Ireland is a long-standing strong supporter to the agency both politically and financially.

He called on the EU Commission to release its contribution to UNWRA, saying that this would be extremely significant, and if that happens, he would be optimistic that other European countries will follow.

Mr Lazzarini said Rafah was a “human sea” with more than 1.5m people living outside in a situation that resembled a large, endless refugee camp. An Israeli ground offensive could only add an additional layer of tragedy and human disaster, he added.

Mr Lazzarini said that Israel has a right of defence but there are rules of war and in Gaza “it seems civilians have paid a disproportionate price since the beginning”.

“There is absolutely no safe place in the Gaza strip,” he added.

He said that the investigation into 12 employees alleged by Israel to have taken part in the 7 October attack, started two weeks ago, but they are still just allegations.

The UN welfare agency for Palestinian refugees was established in 1949, a year after the State of Israel was founded, and nearly the entire Gaza population now relies on UNRWA for basics including food, water and hygiene.

Read more: Latest Middle East stories

People gather to receive flour rations outside a UNRWA warehouse in Rafah

In a letter received by President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez yesterday said UNWRA must be allowed to continue its vital work saving lives and addressing the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The letter added that EU support to UNWRA must be maintained, saying there is no pathway to achieving the urgent massive and sustained scale-up in humanitarian assistance without UNWRA playing a central role.

Additional reporting Reuters

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