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March 25, 2024

ActionAid strongly condemns Israel’s decision to block the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), Gaza’s largest relief agency, from delivering aid to the north. This callous decision exacerbates the dire humanitarian crisis, pushing Palestinians further towards famine. 

Yesterday, UNRWA announced that Israel barred it from delivering aid to northern Gaza. This shocking news was compounded today by an Israeli official’s announcement that it will cease working with UNRWA entirely, further jeopardizing an already beleaguered humanitarian system. Last week, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) warned that 70% of people are on the brink of famine in the north as ongoing hostilities, mass forced displacement, and restricted humanitarian access have exacerbated the situation for millions across Gaza. 

Israeli authorities continue to block thousands of tons of aid crossing the Rafah border, with Egyptian Red Crescent officials claiming that 2,400 trucks carrying lifesaving aid are sitting motionless in the Egyptian city of Al Arish, some 50 kilometers from Gaza, due to excessive red tape. An average of 165 trucks per day have made their way across the border in recent weeks – under a third of what UN officials say Gaza needs to prevent further death from malnutrition and starvation.  

Amidst the worsening food crisis in Gaza, UNRWA’s largest donor, the United States – which contributes around $400 million (£316 million) to its annual budget – announced last week that it was extending its temporary ban on funding until March 2025. And while other donors such as Sweden, Australia, Finland, and Canada have since restored funding to UNRWA, the UK – which contributed around £25 million annually – continues to withhold their support. 

Over the last few months, solar panels, metal tent poles, oxygen tanks, generators, and water purification equipment are among the items Israeli authorities have rejected, impacting the ability of healthcare workers to perform routine medical procedures or treat patients facing severe malnutrition.  

One of these doctors is Dr. Mohammed Obeid, a consultant orthopedic surgeon at Al-Awda Hospital, ActionAid’s partner in northern Gaza. He said:  

“We have a problem [with] food and nutrition for patients. They [don’t] have [the] good vitamins and good protein and carbohydrates [needed] for their wounds to heal, because as you know we are suffering in the north… there is no food to eat. Also, for the team. The team is exhausted, but we still do our best. 

We have [had] a huge lack of human resources and also materials. We have a shortage in our team because many of the surgeons and medical staff and the other staff [went] to the South because they [were] afraid about the attack in the north. The rest of the team is still in Al-Awda Hospital. We do our best to treat our patients and to help our people. We have a shortage [of] antibiotics, [of] medication, analgesia, narcotics and also oxygen to run our OT [operation theatre]. We have a problem [with] the electricity because the engine which we use to run Al-Awda Hospital and the [operation theatre] rooms need more [than] 900 liters of fuel daily and we don’t have fuel. We have a shortage [of] oxygen and the anesthesia drug which we need in the [operation theatre] rooms. We have a real problem [with] the device which we use on open fractures, because we have a shortage [of] this device in all of Gaza. We try to think out of the box and use other things and other instruments but there is a need for [it].” 

Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said:  

“We are utterly horrified and outraged to see Israel pull the plug on the most vital lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza on the brink of famine right now. With severe hunger claiming children’s lives and severely malnourished women giving birth to stillborn babies, Israel’s decision to cease working with UNRWA is nothing short of a death sentence for those living through immense hunger and suffering. 

UNRWA is the beating heart of the humanitarian response and the only agency with the ability to deliver aid across Gaza at scale. Yet Western leaders have neither condemned this decision nor compelled Israel to act meaningfully in the face of imminent famine in the north. Lives that are hanging in the balance cannot wait a day longer. The international community must oppose this disastrous decision, fully and immediately restore funding to UNRWA, and push for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza.” 


For media requests, please email or call 202-731-9593.

Spokespeople are available:

  • Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA
  • Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine

About ActionAid   

ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.   

Support Palestinians in crisis

As the human rights of people in the occupied Palestinian territories continue to be abused, women and children are especially at risk. Gaza faces a dire lack of medical facilities, schools, and homes, as so many have been hit by Israeli airstrikes. ActionAid works in communities near the border with Israel that have been most directly affected by the violence. ActionAid's women-led response is supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities.