Sierra Leone at the UN Security Council

Sierra Leone at the UN Security Council – United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) situation

Mr. President,

Thank you for convening this meeting at the request of Jordan to discuss this important issue.

I also thank Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)for his briefing that has outlined the status of the organization at this critical phase of its operation in Gaza and broader Middle East. 

UNRWA represents and is a beacon of hope for Palestinian refugees since it was established by General Assembly resolution 302 (iv) of 1949 through to these present times. Over the years, we have reviewed numerous reports and briefings on its operations, and they all provide accounts of the organization’s resilience and commitment, which has seen it adapt to the changing needs of the population it serves.  

One minute silence for 178 UNRWA workers killed in service in Gaza

The Agency’s direct relief and works programme, the provision of education, health care, and social services to millions of people across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem is a testimony to its long-standing commitment to the welfare and human development of Palestine refugees and people. 

However, UNWRWA’s ability to deliver at scale and provide adequate humanitarian assistance to civilians in the Gaza Strip and in other locations, has been affected over these past months by the indiscriminate bombardment and collective punishment of the Gaza Strip since the 7th October attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas, and which has unarguably resulted in unseen levels of suffering and humanitarian need in Gaza. 

Regrettably, it has been reported that about 178 UNRWA staff have been killed and a good number of their premises damaged in the ongoing conflict. All these are violations of international law, in particular international humanitarian law, as it relates to the protection of humanitarian personnel in times of armed conflict. We express our deepest condolences to the families of all UNWRA personnel who have paid the ultimate price. We expressed solidarity with those who have been adversely impacted. 

Mr. President,

We have taken note of the allegation of the involvement of a small number of UNWRA personnel in the 7th October attacks. This has led to the suspension of funds by some major donors, even with the understanding that UNRWA is donor driven.  As we welcome the processes that have been initiated by the UN Secretary-General to investigate the allegations and call on all those donors who have continue the suspension of funds to reconsider that decision given the further developments, and the appropriate steps being taken.

Sierra Leone acknowledges UNWAR’s vital role as the mainstay of humanitarian response services to the people of Palestine. We emphasize that UNWRA cannot be replaced by any other agency or entity, as the work they do for Palestinians, not only in Gaza but across the wider region is immeasurable and lifesaving. 

In further acknowledging the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, exacerbated by the very real threat of famine and food insecurity, we call on all member States to strengthen the operational capacity of UNRWA. We appeal for sufficient, predictable, and sustained financial and other support for UNRWA and its services until a just and lasting solution to the plight of Palestine refugees is found.

In conclusion, Mr. President, while I reiterate Sierra Leone’s support for UNWRA, I equally emphasize the need for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza, respect for and implementation of resolutions 2712, 2720, and 2728. This, inter alia, will allow the unhindered flow of humanitarian aid into all parts of the Gaza Strip, including the North.

I thank you.

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