UNRWA head warns ‘entire generation’ of Gaza could lost

Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
Head of UNRWA on Monday issued a a warning that it “will crumble” unless funding is found quickly, with an “entire generation” of children at risk of being condemned to “poverty hatred, resentment and future conflict”.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in a plea to Member States for support underscored that the agency was “staggering under the weight of relentless attacks in Gaza”, after 9 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 Hamas-led terror attacks and hostage-taking sparked the war, Mr. Lazzarini detailed the sheer scale of the destruction to UN premises.

Over 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed since 7 October and “at least 500 people” have been killed seeking protection under the UN flag, he stated.

“Our premises have been used for military purposes by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups,” Mr. Lazarini told a meeting of the Advisory Commission in Geneva.

“Our convoys have come under attack despite coordinated movement with Israeli authorities in the West Bank…operational space is shrinking.”

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

Mr. Lazzarini pointed to rampant looting and smuggling now happening, delaying the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.

He noted that 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”, he 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.”

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

“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 he  said.

Mr. Lazzarini 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.”

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

UNRWA receiving both planned financial donations and new contributions, he explained, added that $1.2 billion was needed to cover critical humanitarian needs until the end of the year.

He noted the appeal is only 18 per cent funded.

UN aid coordination office OCHA warned that access constraints and security concerns continue to hinder efforts to scale up food and nutrition assistance in Gaza, affecting hundreds of thousands in need.

The inability of humanitarian agencies to consistently and safely transport aid from the Kerem Shalom crossing, combined with the continued closure of the Rafah crossing due to the Israeli offensive, has compounded the challenges, he said.

He stressed that fewer than half of the 86 coordinated missions to northern Gaza planned for this month were facilitated by Israeli authorities.

One mission returning to southern Gaza after delivering fuel and medical supplies to Gaza city in the north was delayed for more than 13 hours at an Israeli military checkpoint, he added

OCHA said planned humanitarian missions requiring coordination to areas in southern Gaza also continue to face impediments and access denials.

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