UNITED NATIONS       -           UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has named Swiss humanitarian relief expert Philippe Lazzarini as the next commissioner-general of UNRWA, the UN agency entrusted to care for Palestinian refugees, which has been in a financial crisis financial crisis following the cutoff of U.S. funding.

Guterres had recommended Lazzarini to lead the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) earlier this month. The agency’s headquarters are divided between the Gaza Strip and Amman.

Lazzarini’s appointment was announced following UN chief’s consultations with UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

He said Lazzarini has more than 30 years of experience in delivering humanitarian assistance and co-ordinating international efforts in conflict and post-conflict situations for the United Nations, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and the private sector. He is currently the U.N. humanitarian chief for Lebanon.

Lazzarini replaces former UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl, who resigned in November following a preliminary internal U.N. investigation that raised “management issues,” reflecting concerns over allegations of nepotism and other abuses of authority at the agency.

In January 2018, President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of Israel,  said in January that the Palestinians must return to peace talks with the Israelis to receive U.S. aid money — an announcement that led leaders of 21 international humanitarian groups to strongly criticize the U.S.  administration for linking aid and political objectives, calling it “dangerous.” The U.S. gave $360 million to UNRWA in 2017, but only $60 million in 2018, and nothing last year or so far this year.

was established to aid the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948. It now provides education, health care, food and other services to 5.5 million refugees, their children and grandchildren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Lazzarini joined the United Nations in 2003 and has served in various posts in the U.N. humanitarian office. He earlier was head of marketing for the Union Bancaire Privee in Geneva and served for 10 years with the ICRC as deputy head of communication, head of its delegations in Rwanda, Angola and Sarajevo, and as an ICRC delegate in southern Sudan, Jordan, Gaza and Beirut.

Dujarric said the secretary-general expressed gratitude to acting UNRWA chief Christian Saunders of Britain, who will continue to serve until Lazzarini starts his new job. No date was given.