UNRRA was established by agreement of 44 nations on 9 November 1943; operations came to an end in the latter part of 1946, with the last staff appointment terminating 31 March 1949. The purpose of UNRRA was to 'plan, co-ordinate, administer or arrange for the administration of measures for the relief of victims of war in any area under the control of any of the United Nations through the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities, medical and other essential services' (Agreement, Articles 1 and 2).
Among predecessor organizations was the Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations of the United States Department of State (established 21 November 1942) and the Inter-Allied Committee on Post-War Requirements (the Leith-Ross Committee) established in London in September 1941.
The Agreement provided for (1) a Council on which each member government was represented (which met in six sessions from November 1943 to December 1946); (2) a central committee consisting of China, the USSR, the UK, and the US (initially), to make policy decisions between Council Sessions; (3) a Director-General to serve as chief executive and administrative officer who was responsible for approximately 25,000 staff worldwide.
UNRRA headquarters was in Washington, D.C., and the European Regional Office was set up in London. Individuals who served as Director-General were: Herbert H. Lehmann (1 January 1944 to 31 March 1946); Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1 April to 31 December 1946); and Major-General Lowell P. Rooks (1 January 1947 to 30 September 1948).
The Administration of UNRRA at the peak of operations in mid-1946 included five types of offices and missions with a staff totalling nearly 25,000: The Headquarters Office in Washington, The European Regional Office (London), the Twenty-nine servicing offices and missions (2 area offices in Cairo and Sydney; 10 liaison offices and missions in Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Trieste; 12 procurement offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile �later Peru, Cuba, India, Mexico, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela; 6 offices for procurement of surplus military supplies in Caserta �later Rome, Honolulu, Manila, New Delhi, Paris, Shanghai), the sixteen missions to receiving countries (Albania, Austria, Byelorussia, China, Czechoslovakia, the Dodecanese Islands, Ethiopia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Korea, the Philippines, Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia), and the Displaced Persons Operations in Germany.