DAMASCUS — To the rhythm of Palestinian songs, a troupe of young UNRWA pupils leaped onto the stage for a traditional folklore dance, performing to a packed audience of senior diplomats, United Nations officials and representatives of the Syrian Government and professional community, who turned out at the Damascus Training Centre on 17 May to review the achievements of UNRWA.
Some 200 people took part in the open day and talked with UNRWA officials, including Lex Takkenberg, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria over exhibitions showcasing the work of the Damascus Training Centre, schools and community centres and hearing about the Field’s priorities.
UNRWA recently sollicited an additional US$ 1.1 billion in donor funding for the next five years to allow it to improve the living conditions of the refugees and enhance the quality of its education, health and social services and also promote self-reliance among the refugees by expanding the Agency’s micro-credit programme, increasing its provision of vocational training and by upgrading the conditions in the refugee camps, Takkenberg noted. The plan has four main objectives: to achieve parity of UNRWA services with host authority and international standards; to address the needs of the most vulnerable refugees; to maximize the economic potential of refugees and to build capacity within UNRWA itself.
The plan is already having an impact on UNRWA’s work in Syria: a new shelter rehabilitation project started with funds from the European Commission Humanitarian Office; computer laboratories are being established in UNRWA schools with support from Japan and the United States; and a camp development unit is being established to initiate a programme of urban renewal in the camps in Syria, building on the successful experience of the Neirab Rehabilitation Project. The Agency has also opened a music centre for children in Yarmouk, is replacing the most deplorable housing of refugees in the Neirab camp, outside Aleppo, and is working on an integrated water supply and wast water project in the Damascus countryside.
UNRWA’s aim is to increase the responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency of its programmes for all Palestine refugees in our care”, said Takkenberg. The Agency has an important role in improving living conditions and building up refugee capacities, until such time as a lasting and comprehensive solution is found to the question of Palestine.
Adnan Munnawar, Deputy Director-General of the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR) thanked the Syrian Government for its continued support to UNRWA’s work for Palestine refugees. He also commended the close co-operation between UNRWA and GAPAR.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, is a humanitarian relief and development agency, providing education, health care and social services and emergency relief to over four million registered refugees living in the Syrian Arab Republic, Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon.