The agency’s primary source of funding comes from donations, primarily from the United States, Germany, and the European Union. However, it has been struggling financially for several years.
Entering 2023, UNRWA had accumulated $75 million in debt and requested $1.6 billion from donors for its annual budget. Unfortunately, it had received less than half of that amount before the war began and is now asking for an additional $481 million, mostly for Gaza.
Amid the ongoing conflict, the agency has had to pause most of its services in order to focus on providing emergency aid. Israel’s air campaign has displaced over half of Gaza’s population, and Israel has implemented a strict blockade on the territory. As a result, only a limited amount of aid trucks have been able to enter Gaza from Egypt in recent weeks.
UNRWA’s schools are closed, with many of them now serving as shelters for 730,000 people. Additionally, the agency is coordinating with bakeries to provide flour and fuel to ease the long wait times for bread in Gaza.
The agency’s work has been significantly hampered by the killings and displacement of its staff members, as well as its inability to replenish supplies, according to Ms. Touma.
“We have seen in this war that food, water, and fuel are being used as weapons of war,” she said.
It remains uncertain how the war will conclude and who will govern Gaza in the future. While Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has proposed reunification with the Israeli-occupied West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has asserted his country’s need for security control over Gaza.
Experts anticipate that UNRWA will continue to be the organization best suited to care for the population until a longer-term arrangement is established, though the agency’s current state following the war may hinder its ability to do so.
“The scale of this is really unlike anything we have seen,” said Anne Irfan, a lecturer at University College London. “It is really difficult to see where we go from here, unless there are going to be really serious resources channeled into UNRWA.”