United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Safe-play havens for Palestinian children living in conflict zones

Nestled in the golden hills surrounding Nablus in the West Bank, the little town of Till is home to 3,000 people. Like many population centres in this conflict-prone area, children’s access to safe-play and recreational facilities has been virtually non-existent…until recently. Just a few months ago, UNICEF helped create Till’s first-ever safe-play area for children. “For me, there’s a big difference between before the playground was built and after,” says nine-year-old Majdi Ramadan, a 4th grade student who lives in Till with his family. “I used to play in the streets, but we were always interrupted when people walked by. It was dangerous, too, with all the cars; one of my friends got hurt. Now I’m no longer afraid of the cars, I can just play.” 

More than just school

Amal leads the morning parade at Shatie Elementary School. Dressed in her brown uniform and beret she is at the fore as, behind her, a thousand Gazan schoolchildren line up neatly in rows, clapping and chanting. After the parade she is in charge of ensuring they all file back quickly into their classrooms. This daily ritual is representative of the kind of order school brings to the lives of children living in Gaza. Amal is eleven years old; her parents, like those of many other children at Shatie, which caters solely for refugee children, are impoverished and unemployed. The camps in which Amal and most other students live are crowded, amongst the most densely populated places on earth, with many families having nine or ten children. 

UNRWA inaugurates Saudi-funded Rafah Re-housing Project

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) today laid the cornerstone for the “Saudi Project to Rehouse Homeless Refugee Families”, funded through a generous contribution of $20 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This grant, administered by the Saudi Fund for Development through UNRWA, will cover the construction of new shelters for over 800 homeless refugee families, three schools, a health centre, a mosque, a community centre, a market area and all related infrastructure works. The project will help alleviate some of the hardship being felt in the Gaza Strip by providing several hundred thousand days of temporary employment. 

Strong support for UNRWA as major hosts and donors meeting concludes

The second day of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Hosts and Donors Meeting, being held at the Dead Sea, opened with an address by Dr. Marwan Muasher, the deputy prime minister of Jordan. Karen AbuZayd, the UNRWA Commissioner-General, applauded Jordan’s many efforts on behalf of Palestine refugees as “exemplary.” Muasher, in turn, expressed strong support for UNRWA. “Its budget should be strengthened and expanded, so as to be able to raise the living standards of Palestine refugees living in Gaza and elsewhere.” 

First UNRWA hosts and donors meeting opens at Dead Sea

Today the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) opened its first Hosts and Donors Meeting, at the King Hussein Bin Talal convention center at the Dead Sea, to discuss developments in assistance provided by the international community to Palestine refugees. Participants confirmed continued support for UNRWA and the Palestine refugees. Opening the meeting was the Jordanian deputy prime minister for political development, Hisham El- Tal. El-Tal commended UNRWA and the delegates present for going ahead with the meeting despite the recent terrorist attacks in Amman, stressing the vital importance of UNRWA’s humanitarian efforts in the areas of education, health and relief and social services. 

Japan contributes $5.5 million to rehabilitate refugee shelters

Today, the Government of Japan announced a generous donation of US$ 5.5 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agenc y for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in support of its work in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s disengagement. This donation is part of a US$ 100 million package announced by the Japanese Government in May 2005. It will enable UNRWA to reconstruct 333 dilapidated or unsafe dwellings belonging to the most destitute refugee families living in the eight refugee camps across the Gaza Strip. Refugees constitute approximately 70 percent of the estimated 1.4 million population of the Gaza Strip. 

New shelters for Rafah homeless

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) today handed over 109 new homes to 116 families from Rafah refugee camp whose shelters have been destroyed by the Israeli military during the last four years. These homes are provided for refugees made homeless by the conflict. According to UNRWA’s statistics, by end of December 2004, a total of 2,991 shelters, home to over 28,483 people had been demolished or damaged beyond repair in the Gaza Strip since the start of the strife. Of the total, 2,521 shelters accommodated 4,337 refugee families, of whom 3,633 families have been identified as being eligible for assistance under the Agency’s rehousing programme. 

UNRWA shares hopes and fears for Gaza disengagement with donors and host authorities

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is holding a two-day meeting with 27 of its major donors and host authorities to discuss the humanitarian assistance provided by the international community to the 4.2 million Palestinians scattered across the Middle East. At the meeting UNRWA’s directors gave a major presentation on the Agency’s plans in the event of the removal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip. UNRWA is pre-positioning food stocks and other humanitarian supplies around the strip to allow it to cope with extended closures and possible conflict when the disengagement process starts in August. 

UNRWA displays major achievements

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 presents $1.1 billion plan to donors

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees today presented a blueprint to a better future for four million Palestine refugees to the international donor community in Geneva. The Agency is requesting an additional US$1.1 billion over the next five years to allow it to improve the life chances of the refugees and enhance the ir ability to support themselves. UNRWA’s Medium Term Plan (MTP) is the product of many months of dialogue between the Agency and the donor community and has been influenced by the recommendations of a major conference held in Geneva in June 2004 to examine the future of humanitarian assistance to the Palestine refugees.