Caritas Australia says the humanitarian crisis in Gaza will escalate without adequate aid funding, after Australia and other Western countries suspended aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
The aid suspension came after Israel accused a dozen UNRWA employees of taking part in the October 7 attacks. The UNRWA has around 13,000 staff working in Gaza across eight refugee camps, 22 health centres, and 274 schools. It delivers education, health and mental healthcare, relief and social services, microcredit, and emergency assistance to hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Caritas Australia’s advocacy director Damian Spruce said of the decision, “In any other circumstance, the defunding of an organisation involved in the vital protection of innocent people because of the wrongdoing of a handful of people would be seen as heavy-handed and disproportionate.
“If it were services being deployed to safeguard innocent people here in Australia, from our hospitals to the SES and our lifeguarding services, total withdrawal of funding would be met with warranted outrage. We would rightly expect that the individuals would be dealt with, and services would continue.”
Spain has since vowed to maintain support, with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares declaring the support of the UN agency to be indispensable in helping to “alleviate the terrible humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
Sally Thomas, humanitarian emergencies lead at Caritas Australia said aid organisations were “already falling short of addressing short-term needs, which include shelter, food, medicine, and clean water, let alone long-term needs”.
“Without adequate aid funding the humanitarian crisis will escalate, and more suffering could bring more tension to the Middle East as countries outside of Israel and Gaza react,” Ms Thomas said.
“Conversely, properly administered humanitarian aid that sees innocent civilians safeguarded can play a vital role in de-escalating conflict.”
To support Caritas Australia’s Gaza Appeal, visit www.caritas.org.au/gaza.
Political division will have dire humanitarian consequences in Gaza (Caritas Australia)