UNRWA chief expresses hope Japan will resume funding amid crisis in Gaza

The head of the United Nations' refugee agency for Palestinians has expressed hope that Japan will resume funding for the organization amid a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, spoke to the media on Friday during his visit to Japan.

Major donor countries, including Japan, suspended funding for UNRWA following allegations that some of its staff were involved in the deadly Hamas attacks on Israel last October.

Lazzarini said it has become a "race against the clock" to reverse the "unfolding starvation and famine" taking place in Gaza.
He said the lack of funding for UNRWA is unsettling, not only for the communities it is supporting, but also for the agency's staff.

He said that "with the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza, obviously it's important that an agency like UNRWA, having the biggest footprint in Gaza, be able to continue to operate."

Canada, Sweden, France and others announced this month that they will resume funding for UNRWA. Therefore, Japan's decision is being closely watched, as it was organization's sixth largest contributor.

Lazzarini referred to the agency's 70 years of partnership with Japan.

He expressed hope that Tokyo will resume its financial contributions, and also provide political support to the agency.
Regarding the United States, UNRWA's top donor, Lazzarini said the US has informed the agency that there will be no funding until March 2025, and that this will have an impact on the organization's activities.

Lazzarini said he will redouble his efforts to reach out to new donors in Southeast Asia and elsewhere to seek their cooperation.