Row over UN agency ‘distraction’ from dire Gaza crisis: WHO – English-BanglaNewsUs
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Row over UN agency ‘distraction’ from dire Gaza crisis: WHO

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Published January 31, 2024
Row over UN agency ‘distraction’ from dire Gaza crisis: WHO

GENEVA, Jan 30, 2024 (BSS/AFP) – The World Health Organization said on Tuesday the row over funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency was distracting from the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

It urged governments to keep backing UNRWA, which has seen several key donors suspend funding over Israel’s accusations that several staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack.

“Criminal activity can never go unpunished,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a media briefing in Geneva.

“But the discussion… (is) a distraction from what’s really going on every day, every hour, every minute in Gaza.”

Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza, now in their fourth month, have left much of the besieged Palestinian territory in ruins and many of its people on the verge of starving.

“We appeal to donors not to suspend their funding to UNRWA at this very critical moment. (It) will only hurt the people of Gaza who desperately need support,” said Lindmeier.

“As important as this discussion is, let’s not forget what the real issues are on the ground.”

At least 12 countries have stopped funding UNRWA in recent days.

The agency has fired several employees over Israel’s accusations and promised to investigate the claims, which were not specified.

– ‘Border of famine’ –

Lindmeier said UNRWA ran 22 health centres before the war but only six were still operating by mid-January.

“The population is really at the border of famine… It’s getting worse by the day,” he said.

“A malnourished population is very prone to catching diseases and infections.”

The war began after Hamas’s October 7 attack in Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Hamas also seized 250 hostages.

Israel’s relentless retaliation has killed at least 26,751 in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to its Hamas-run health ministry.

Lindmeier said the UNRWA row diverted the world’s attention from the Gaza death toll and a siege “preventing an entire population from access to clean water, food and shelter”.

“It’s a distraction from preventing electricity to come into Gaza,” he said.

“It’s also a distraction from the continuous shelling of an entire population — even in areas that just moments before have been designated as safe areas.

“It’s a distraction from attacking shelters, schools, hospitals.”

On Tuesday, leading NGOs condemned the halt to UNRWA funding.

“The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel’s continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza,” they said.

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