Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison. (File photo via social media)
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has signed an agreement with Mercy-USA for Aid and Development to provide critical health and education interventions to Palestine refugees living in the Gaza Strip.
The US$ 250,000 contribution will provide funding for some 3,5000 mammograms to at risk Palestine refugee women. Additional health interventions include the provision of medical equipment for vision screening ensuring more than 90,000 students are screened for visual impairment via services managed by UNRWA school health teams. Glucometers and glucostics for hundreds of diabetic Palestine refugees, most of them children, will also be provided.
The contribution will also support educational services for 520 visually impaired refugee girls and boys who receive care at the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI).
Funding will be used to provide dozens of tablets for students to ensure access to education, especially in the event of a return to remote learning in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Mercy-USA is also financing upgrades and repairs to the RCVI facility’s yard and solar power system.
Through its specialized education, rehabilitation, orientation and life skills classes, the RCVI has assisted thousands of visually impaired students in gaining the skills and the confidence they need to successfully navigate hurdles to education access and job opportunities in Gaza. This is the third round of funding support from Mercy-USA to the UNRWA RCVI.
UNRWA health, education and relief and social services programmes are three of the Agency’s core programmes delivered to Palestine refugees across all five of its fields of operation.
In the Gaza Strip alone, the UNRWA Health Department has historically registered an average of 4 million patient consultations across 22 healthcare centres every year. Additionally, the Agency provides free primary education to more than 286,000 girls and boys across 278 schools in the 365 km² enclave.
Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have been enduring dire living conditions due to the 15-year-long Israeli siege and the devastating upshots of the Israeli onslaughts on the coastal enclave.
According to data by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated areas, with more than 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the city of Oslo but is home to three times as many people.
A 2012 UN report predicted the Palestinian enclave would be “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade, but in June 2017 a UN report on living conditions in Gaza stated that all the indicators were going in the wrong direction and that deadline was actually approaching even faster than earlier predicted.
Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison, where nearly 2 million Palestinians live behind a blockade and are refused access to the other occupied Palestinian areas and the rest of the world.
NRC said 7 out of 10 Palestinians in Gaza are registered as refugees, and many of these come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many have also been forced to leave their homes due to war, violence, and economic hardship.