A boy sitting near sacks of flour distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at the Al-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza, Jan. 15, 2018. (Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The Kingdom of Belgium has contributed an additional EUR 3.5 million towards the Education in Emergencies Programme of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for the period October 2021-October 2022.
The project entitled “Education in Emergencies for Palestine refugee children – Phase III” will address the most urgent education and psychosocial needs of more than 370,000 UNRWA students affected by crisis, instability, conflict, or poverty in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the Agency’s five fields of operation.
According to UNRWA, the funding will be used to support access to education through the provision of school transportation support to more than 600 students who otherwise have to walk long distances, often through unsafe neighborhoods and on dangerous roads in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Stationery will be purchased and distributed to more than 370,000 Palestine refugee children affected by poverty or loss of belongings due to conflict or displacement; unaddressed, such conditions can constitute barriers that often lead to school drop-out.
Close to 400 students will also benefit from appropriate assistive devices to help them cope with disabilities that otherwise limit their access to education. The project will also contribute towards updating UNRWA school risk assessments in about 50 schools and rehabilitating some 129 schools across the Agency. Finally, UNRWA students will also benefit from psychosocial support to help them cope with stress and trauma, including loss and grief. This will be done through the deployment of school counsellors, the procurement of recreational materials, and the improvement and refurbishing of some 40 dedicated recreational spaces, among others, to ensure participation in recreational activities and counselling sessions for students in need.
The current project is a continuation of Phases I and II of the programme entitled “Education in Emergencies for Palestine refugee children” that were supported by the Government of Belgium with EUR 9.35 million during the period July 2016 – June 2021. The contribution has been essential for strengthening the UNRWA Education in Emergencies response capacity, as well as for enabling close to half a million Palestine refugee students to continue to benefit from safe, quality, inclusive and equitable education and psychosocial support during overlapping crises and conflict. These include the COVID-19 pandemic; the blast in Beirut of 2020 and exacerbating socio-economic and political conditions in Lebanon; the escalation in hostilities that led to airstrikes on Gaza and clashes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in May 2021; poverty and hardship in Jordan; and the continuing crisis in Syria.