UNRWA HQ in Gaza
UNRWA HQ in Gaza Flash 90

The head of UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, said Thursday that the agency is in a "danger zone" that could result in it no longer being able to fulfil its mandate.

Speaking to Reuters, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said stagnant resources as costs spiralled were pushing many of the 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East - for many of whom the agency is a lifeline - to unprecedented poverty levels.

"There is an erosion of our capacity to deliver and at a given point if we continue on this trajectory we will reach a situation where we will not be able anymore to fulfil our mandate ... this a danger zone," Lazzarini told the news agency.

Multiple crises that had hit the region have been worsened by the impact of the war in Ukraine, meaning the plight of “Palestinian refugees” was "de-prioritized" by many donors, he added.

"The level of despair and distress is heartbreaking," Lazzarini said. Poverty rates had gone up to 90% from 80% in some overcrowded camps in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, he said.

The United Nations defines poverty as income of less than $2 per day.

"It is an anomaly that an agency that was supposed to be created on a temporary basis still has the same function ... almost 75 years later," he told Reuters.

UNRWA relies on donations from countries around the world. The US, which has long been one of the main supporters of UNRWA, cut a full $300 million in funding to the agency in 2018, when Donald Trump was President.

The Biden administration has announced it intends to resume aid to UNRWA as well as other aid to the Palestinian Authority which was suspended by the Trump administration.

In September, the US announced $64 million in aid for UNRWA. It previously announced $201 million for UNRWA, bringing assistance to the organization during the Biden administration close to $700 million.

Created in 1949, UNRWA supplies aid to more than three million of the five million registered “Palestinian refugees” in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and territories assigned to the Palestinian Authority.

However, it is also notorious for its anti-Israel activities. During the 2014 counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge, Hamas rockets were discovered inside a school building run by UNRWA.

Likewise, a booby-trapped UNRWA clinic was detonated, killing three IDF soldiers. Aside from the massive amounts of explosives hidden in the walls of the clinic, it was revealed that it stood on top of dozens of terror tunnels, showing how UNRWA is closely embedded with Hamas.

More recently, a UN Watch report revealed that more than 100 of UNRWA’s educators and staff have publicly promoted anti-Semitism and violence on social media, and that on numerous occasions the agency has failed to dismiss teachers who incited such hate.