Top donor to resume funding UNRWA

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Another top donor to the United Nations (UN) agency aiding Palestinians said Saturday, March 9, 2024, that it would resume funding, weeks after more than a dozen countries halted hundreds of millions of dollars of support in response to Israeli allegations against the organization.

Sweden’s reversal came as a ship bearing tons of humanitarian aid was preparing to leave Cyprus for Gaza after international donors launched a sea corridor to supply the besieged territory facing widespread hunger after five months of war.

Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters late Saturday, March 9, that the ship would depart “within the next 24 hours.” World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés told The Associated Press that all necessary permits, including from Israel, had been secured, and circumstances delaying departure were primarily weather-related.

Sweden’s funding decision followed similar ones by the European Union and Canada as the agency known as United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East warns that it could collapse and leave Gaza’s already desperate population of more than two million people with even less medical and other assistance.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is devastating and the needs are acute,” Swedish development minister Johan Forssell said, adding that UNRWA had agreed to increased transparency and stricter controls. Sweden will give UNRWA half of the $38 million funding it promised for this year, with more to come.

Israel had accused 12 of UNRWA’s thousands of employees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people and took about 250 others hostage. Countries including the United States quickly suspended funding to UNRWA worth about $450 million, almost half its budget for the year. The UN has launched investigations, and UNRWA has been agreeing to outside audits to win back donor support. / AP


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