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Australia lags on reinstating UNRWA funding as Canada, Sweden and the EU pave the way

 Save the Children highlights urgency of reinstating lifesaving aid to prevent more child deaths.
14 March 2024

Save the Children, Australia’s leading child rights agency, says the Australian Government must immediately reinstate suspended funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) if it’s serious about preventing more children from starving to death in Gaza.   

In recent days, Canada and Sweden have both resumed funding to UNRWA, the main humanitarian lifeline to Gaza’s population, noting that the funds are necessary to allow the UN agency to respond to the urgent needs of Palestinian civilians. The European Commission announced earlier this month that it would also recommence fulfilling 60% of its funding to UNRWA immediately. 

Australia continues to withhold new lifesaving humanitarian funding to the agency, despite Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong previously stating that resuming funding to the UN agency is the only way to ensure fewer children are starving in Gaza. 
Australia suspended AU$6 million [1] in new funding to UNRWA on 27 January 2024, joining several other countries that suspended funds to the agency over allegations made by the Government of Israel that 12 UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 attacks. 

The humanitarian situation in Gaza reached catastrophic levels many months ago and has only worsened every day since. An estimated 75% of the population is displaced and the entire child population is facing starvation and disease, with at least 21 children having already starved to death according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. At least 31,272 people have been killed, including more than 12,900 children, due to Israel’s relentless bombardment and systematic deprivation of humanitarian aid, including food and medicine.  

Save the Children Australia CEO Mat Tinkler said: 

“It’s been more than six weeks since Australia suspended new funding to UNRWA, and it’s been 11 days since the Albanese Government promised ‘additional urgent support will be announced in coming days’, and we still haven’t heard any further announcement.  

“With more and more children dying in Gaza every day, we simply do not have the luxury of time. 

“The Government has consistently expressed concern and alarm over the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and yet its contribution to the humanitarian response has failed to adequately reflect the concern in those statements. 

“Save the Children urges the Albanese Government to not only reinstate the $6 million of suspended funding to UNRWA, but to scale up funding to the agency and address the crisis more broadly as quickly as possible.    

“Words alone won't save lives. The children of Gaza need action, and they need it today.” 


MEDIA CONTACT: Mala Darmadi on 0421 334 918 or


1. Australia has committed $34.5 million in humanitarian support to Gaza since October 7, including the suspended $6 million to UNRWA, including funding to provide essential supplies and support services. The suspended $6 million in funding is the only new contribution Australia has made to UNRWA since the war began more than five months ago.

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