The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is the main provider of education, health, relief and social services to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s five fields of operations: Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. UNRWA’s assistance is especially essential to refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, where the economic situation continues to deteriorate and movement restrictions impede the delivery of UNRWA’s humanitarian aid. The frequent closure of the commercial Karni crossing to the Gaza Strip, where refugees account for two-thirds of the population. Below are some impressions and reflections of Palestine refugees in Gaza.
Haj Mohammed Zoarab, a 62-year-old Palestine refugee from Jaffa, speaks of his experience of “more than 50 years of refuge.” He does not deny that UNRWA has been the main provider of assistance for the refugees since he emigrated in the 1950s to the first UNRWA camp located in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip. He insists that UNRWA should continue to assist the refugees, and laments, “we are poorer [today] than the first years of the exodus, when there were less people…life was easier, people were nicer and UNRWA was more generous”.
Hanya El Kurdi, 67 years old, a refugee from Ashdod, considers that UNRWA’s assistance was better in the past than at the time of writing. “Imagine”, she begins, “we were receiving rations every 15 days, which was enough for us, and we lacked nothing, but now we only receive coupons every few months.” Haja Hanya reveals that she and her son recently went with no food for 15 days, before receiving help from other people. She is very grateful that UNRWA schools are still working, noting that “despite everything, I still feel happy when I see my grandchildren go to school every morning — it is a blessing that we should keep”. She insists that we take a photograph of her so that her daughter in an UNRWA camp in Syria can see her.
Oudeh Abu Safya, from Jabalia camp, expressed similar sentiments vis-à-vis UNRWA’s assistance. He recalls, “the old days were better; UNRWA was providing us with everything…”, adding that “no one can deny that UNRWA schools are good”. Oudeh wishes that UNRWA would “keep its commitments towards the refugees,” especially vis-à-vis the Agency’s food distribution for Palestine refugees. Ala’a Abu Zied, a Palestine refugee from Rafah camp, further illuminates the importance of UNRWA’s food assistance: “The UNRWA ration card is more important to me than the ID card; it is the card that unifies all the Palestinian refugees in the world”.
Mohammed Abu Amra, a 70-year-old Palestine refugee from Beersheba, residing in UNRWA’s Deir El Balah camp, is also witness to hardship. “I request that “UNRWA return as before, when it was providing assistance for all the refugees”, he states, as “these days we are more needy than before — we only have Allah and UNRWA”. Abu Amra smiles and reflects, “I have a feeling that things will get better, even though we’ve been saying the same thing for the last 50 years”, before disappearing in the camp alley which leads toward the sea.