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President criticises ‘propaganda campaign’ against UN

President Michael D Higgins has criticised a “propaganda campaign” against the United Nations and called on countries to increase aid for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).

Several countries withdrew funding from the relief agency in Gaza following claims from Israel that some UNRWA staff took part in the Hamas attack on 7 October.

In a statment this afternoon, President Higgins said: “The releasing of a propaganda campaign against the United Nations is a scandalous travesty against the little less than heroic efforts of all those involved on the frontline in Gaza – medical staff, those working to supply nutrition and aid in the most trying of circumstances, and those other dedicated professionals in UNRWA who have lost more than 160 of their colleagues.”

He said more than $450m (€412m) has been removed from UNRWA’s budget and that countries “must take account of what is now being shown on the television screens of the world for all to see – infant children dying from lack of oxygen, many more dying from malnutrition and all of this set to escalate”.

Last week, the head of UNRWA told the UN General Assembly that the agency has been “facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations, and ultimately end them”.

Philippe Lazzarini said that part of the campaign involved “inundating donors with misinformation designed to foster distrust and tarnish the reputation of the agency”.

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Today, President Higgins said UN members should “take notice” of Mr Lazzarini’s statement, adding: “It is a campaign which could have the effect of undermining the role of the UN in the present circumstances and in relation to the future of Gaza. His plea for help deserves the support of all who believe in the United Nations.”

Last month, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin announced €20 million in support for UNRWA.

President Higgins today urged countries to “emulate Ireland’s example in increasing its aid at this time to this most vital United Nations agency”.

He said he welcomed recent decisions by Canada and Sweden “to rescind a previous decision and resume aid to UNRWA”.

More to follow.

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