Media Centre - 15 March 2024

Plan International Australia welcomes Australian Government decision to unfreeze critical UNRWA funding in Gaza

Humanitarian and child’s rights organisation Plan International Australia welcomes the news today from Foreign Minister Penny Wong that the Australian Government will unfreeze its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and increase humanitarian aid to Gaza.

UNRWA is the main aid provider for the 1.1 million children facing starvation in Gaza and this decision will unequivocally make an impact on the ability to deliver lifesaving aid to them.

Millions of Palestinians are on the edge of famine. Families have been drinking unsafe water for months and spend days without eating. Gazans make up 80 per cent of all people facing famine or catastrophic hunger worldwide.

In northern Gaza, one in six infants are acutely malnourished or wasting, according to the UN. If unfettered aid is not immediately allowed in and prioritised in northern Gaza, we countless children will perish over the coming weeks.

Plan International Australia chief executive Susanne Legena said:

“In very welcome news today, the Australian Government has, finally, reinstated its emergency funding to UNRWA. The humanitarian assistance they deliver cannot be replaced by other organisations – and UNRWA’s survival is the only way that we can avert mass starvation and famine in Gaza. We thank the Minister Wong for listening to the loud cries from aid organisations and the hundreds of thousands of Australians that have been calling on the Government to do the right thing. Four in five Australians have told us that they support a ceasefire in Gaza, and the majority want the Government to take much more action to achieve that goal. This is a first, and welcome step.

“The suffering children in Gaza are facing every single day is unconscionable. They are being bombed, and they are dying painful, slow deaths from starvation. We’re calling for an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire and a massive increase in humanitarian assistance.

“Alongside this, Plan International Australia is also calling for a massive increase in humanitarian assistance and improved access for relief supplies and humanitarian workers. Donor states should not hide behind airdrops and efforts to open a maritime corridor. The 2.3 million people living in a catastrophic state of survival cannot be fed and healed by the small amount of aid that can be delivered via airdrops. The people of Gaza cannot wait for ports to be built. Road transport remains the most effective way to get the volume of urgently required aid to those who need it.

“Allowing access for humanitarian aid to reach the civilian population is an obligation under International Humanitarian Law,” she said.

Plan International Australia also reiterates its call for countries to stop sending arms while there is a risk they are used to commit or facilitate serious violations of International Humanitarian Law or human rights law.

At least 12,800 Palestinian children have already been killed in five months, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Urgent action is needed now to avert further tragedy and prevent even more loss of life. We also call for the release of all civilian hostages.

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Claire Knox

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