Damage to a house in the Jenin Refugee Camp from the Israeli military operation between 3 and 5 July 2023. (2023 UNRWA Photo)
Senior UNRWA officials, including the Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth, the Director of the Agency’s West Bank Field Office, Adam Bouloukos, and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Lynn Hastings, visited the Jenin Refugee Camp, in the northern occupied West Bank.
The delegation was accompanied by several senior representatives from the international and donor community.
“The destruction I saw was shocking. Some houses were completely burned down, cars had been crushed against walls, roads were damaged. The UNRWA health centre was destroyed. But more than the physical damage, I saw the trauma in the eyes of camp residents who had witnessed the violence. I heard them speak about their exhaustion and fear,” said Leni Stenseth, Deputy UNRWA Commissioner-General.
The two-day Israeli military operation was the fiercest in over 20 years. At least 12 people, including four children, were killed, and another 140 were injured. Some 900 houses were damaged; many have become uninhabitable.
The UNRWA health centre in the camp was so badly damaged that it can no longer be used. The four UNRWA schools in the camp sustained minor damage and, while some children were back in their classrooms, attendance was very low. Some parents said that children are too scared to leave their homes.
“Children were shaken and shocked. Far from all students attended school today, as many of them were too afraid to leave their homes. In one classroom we visited, students shared with us that just 10 days ago, they had buried a classmate who was killed in an earlier incursion," said Adam Bouloukos, the Director of UNRWA West Bank.
“It is very hard for children to walk to school as the main roads are still unusable. When trying to find alternative ways to school, some younger children lost their way. We truly feared for their safety due to the risks of unexploded ordinance. A priority now is to provide mental and psychosocial support to help children cope with their fear and anxiety,” he added.
The Jenin Refugee Camp- home to nearly 24,000 people - has witnessed severe violence over the last two years, with 2023 being particularly intense.
“The camp is now partially without access to electricity and water,” said Bouloukos. “Nearly eight kms of water piping and three kms of sewage lines were destroyed due to the use of heavy machinery that ripped up large sections of the roads.”
“I commend the local and municipal authorities in and around Jenin Camp for their hard work to clean-up and help the communities resume normal life. They have done an exceptional job. UNRWA will continue to support them over the coming days and weeks,” added Bouloukos.
During the military operation, at least 3,500 people were forced to flee their homes. UNRWA said its priority is to help restore some sense of normality by resuming its services like education, health (including mental health) and sanitation. The other urgent priority is to provide cash assistance to families who left their homes, to help with rent and rehabilitating their houses. The urgent humanitarian response needed in Jenin Camp adds to severe financial challenges that UNRWA faces this year.
“We went to Jenin Camp with our partners to show solidarity with residents and reassure them that they are not alone. UNRWA is calling on its donors and partners to immediately make funds available for our humanitarian response in Jenin Camp. While UNRWA will do everything possible to support and provide assistance, it is key that the calm in Jenin Camp continues. People constantly live in uncertainty and worry about their safety and what tomorrow will bring. It is time for peace and respite in Jenin and across the occupied Palestinian territory through a much needed just political solution that will also address the plight of Palestine Refugees,” concluded Stenseth.