Sweden and Canada resume funding to UN agency aiding Palestinians

Sweden and Canada have announced they will be resuming funding to the UN agency aiding Palestinians.

They were one of 16 countries who last month halted hundreds of millions of dollars in support to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in response to Israel accusing at least 12 of its staff of involvement in Hamas’ 7 October attack on the country.

Sweden today (9 March) said it would send 200 million kronor (£15m;) initially, after UNRWA agreed to more checks on its spending and staff.

Canada said on Friday that it would re-start funding for UNRWA as Canadian Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen said the country has been reassured after receiving an interim report from the United Nations investigation of Israel’s allegations.

Mr Hussen said the government is “resuming its funding to UNRWA so more can be done to respond to the urgent needs of Palestinian civilians”.

The nation’s reversal came as a ship bearing tonnes of humanitarian aid today made preparations to leave Cyprus for Gaza after international donors launched a sea corridor to supply the territory.

Sweden’s decision followed a similar moves by the European Commission which earlier this month that it would release €50m in UNRWA funding.

UNRWA has warns that it could collapse and leave Gaza’s already desperate population of more than two million people with even less medical and other assistance.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is devastating and the needs are acute,” development minister Johan Forssell said in Sweden’s announcement, adding that the UNRWA had agreed to increased transparency and stricter oversight and controls.

Sweden will give the UNRWA half of the 38 million dollar (£29.6 million) funding it promised for this year, with more to come.

Israel had accused 12 of UNRWA’s thousands of employees of participating in the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people and took about 250 others hostage.

Countries including the United States quickly suspended funding to UNRWA worth about 450 million dollars (£350.5 million), almost half its budget for the year.

The UN has launched investigations, and the UNRWA has been agreeing to outside audits to win back donor support.

The daily number of aid trucks entering Gaza since the war has been far below the 500 that entered before October 7 because of Israeli restrictions and security issues.

The US military said that its planes on Saturday airdropped more than 41,000 “meal equivalents” and 23,000 bottles of water into northern Gaza, the hardest part of the enclave to access.

The health ministry in Gaza said that two more people, including a two-month-old infant, had died as a result of malnutrition, raising the total number of people who died from hunger to 25.

UNRWA is the biggest aid agency operating in Gaza, with more than two million relying on its services.

Formed in 1949, it employs about 13,000 people who provide urgent humanitarian aid, including healthcare and education, in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

The agency has also provided shelter to hundreds and thousands of refugees since the outbreak of the conflict after the October 7 attacks.

Additional reporting by Press Association