Social Workers Call for the Unfreezing of US Funding for UNRWA

Join us in urgently calling on President Biden and Vice President Harris to unfreeze UNRWA funding so that they can continue providing life saving supports for Palestinians amidst Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza.

Social workers across the US urgently call on President Biden and Vice President Harris to unfreeze and resume funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Social work has long concerned itself with the safety and well being of refugees both in and out of the United States. We write with our collective voices to express deep concern about Palestinian refugees in Gaza who are dependent on international support for basic survival needs.

Recently the United States, along with several other western states made the decision to freeze funding for UNRWA based on allegations from the Israeli government that 12 of the more than 13,000 UNRWA staff in Gaza had connections to the October 7th attack. This freezing of funds comes amidst a dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by Israel’s ongoing genocidal attacks against Palestinians. The conditions in Gaza today are critical. More than 26,000 Gazans have been killed, nearly 2 million have been displaced, almost all of whom are at risk for starvation. Potable water is incredibly scarce and the health system has all but collapsed due to Israeli bombardment and siege.

UNRWA has and is playing a critical role in providing services and care to Palestinians in Gaza. In short, these funds are saving lives. The freezing of funds by the United States and other governments at this crisis moment is shocking and violates every value of social work. Efforts to defund UNRWA are not new. Israel has long opposed UNRWA and sought to end its existence, in large part due to UNRWA’s (along with all of the UN and the majority of the international community) support for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

As social workers, we stand firmly in the belief that all people have the right to self-determination, and deserve care and dignity, including access to food, shelter, water, medicine and basic human needs for survival. The support provided by UNRWA is just one example of the critical work being done to support Palestinians in this moment.

We urgently call on President Biden and Secretary Blinken to unfreeze funding for UNRWA, and work with Congress to ensure that funding continues long into the future.