Canada is sending another $40 million in aid to organizations that are helping Palestinians in Gaza after pausing funding to the UN’s relief agency in the region.
The bulk of the funding will go to the World Food Program, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the UN Population Fund, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Some $5 million has been set aside for Canadian non-governmental organizations.
“Throughout this conflict we have centred our decisions on the lives of innocent civilians in this conflict,” International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Tuesday.
“This is a demonstration of Canada’s commitment.”
Canada has suspended “additional funding” to UNRWA, the UN agency that supports Palestinians in Gaza and employs about 13,000 people there, in response to allegations that some staff members played a role in the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7.
There was international outcry when the agency’s director fired nine staff members suspected of being involved in the attack. The UN condemned what it called the “abhorrent alleged acts.”
An Israeli document detailing those allegations was obtained Monday by The Associated Press. It said seven UNRWA employees stormed into Israel, one took part in a kidnapping and another helped steal a soldier’s body. Three others are also accused of taking part in the attacks.
Ten were listed as having ties to Hamas and one to the Islamic Jihad militant group, AP reported. Two of the 12 have been killed, according to the document. The UN previously said one was still being identified.
The allegations could not be independently confirmed.
Hussen refused to say whether the $40 million announced Tuesday was money that would have gone to UNRWA, nor would he answer questions about when Canada last provided funding to the agency.
In the past, “the money for Gaza has been dispersed through UNRWA and they’ve used it to deliver the much-needed humanitarian aid,” he said. Long-term support for the agency will be affected by the pause, Hussen added.
UNRWA has said it will be forced to stop operations by the end of February if funding is not restored. Since the war started, most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have relied on the agency’s programs for basic survival.
A coalition of 20 aid groups, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Save the Children, also called for funding to be restored, saying UNRWA’s delivery of humanitarian assistance cannot be replaced.
“Canada will continue to work with (UNRWA) and other donors to support the investigation into the serious and deeply concerning allegations, while maintaining our commitment to helping the most vulnerable Palestinian civilians in the region,” Global Affairs said in a statement.
The statement also called for a humanitarian ceasefire to allow more aid to enter the Gaza Strip and reiterated Canada’s call for a two-state solution in the region.
The Hamas attack left 1,200 people dead in Israel, and about 250 people were taken hostage in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities. It’s believed that about 100 hostages are still alive and being held in the besieged territory.
Since Oct. 7, Israel has bombarded Gaza from the air and sea and has carried out an extensive military operation on the ground. The Gaza Health Ministry estimates more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed.
Canada has committed $100 million to humanitarian aid in Gaza so far.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2024.
With files from The Associated Press