Belgian Community-Tech Company Pilots Eco-Initiative for Palestinian Refugees in Blockaded Gaza

Belgian Community-Tech Company Pilots Eco-Initiative for Palestinian Refugees in Blockaded Gaza

A female student at UNRWA Gaza Training Center during the UnlitterGaza launch activities. © 2023 UNRWA Photo

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and Belgian community-tech company UNbox have joined forces to launch a groundbreaking recycling program in the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA said in a press release that this strategic collaboration reflects its unwavering commitment to sustainable practices and improving the quality of life for Gazans and Palestine Refugees across the region.

The program, aptly named UNLitter Gaza, is currently undergoing testing at the Gaza Training Centre (GTC) and Gaza Field Office (GFO), enabling UNRWA and Unbox to fine-tune its technology and operations.

The pilot not only targets the GTC student community but also aims to cultivate environmental stewardship through behavioral nudging and education. Valuable insights gained from the highly successful launch event, which witnessed the participation of hundreds of students and faculty, are instrumental in enhancing the program.

Commenting on the collaboration, Thomas White, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, highlighted three key aspects of the partnership: “The first involves young people, and of course about 70 per cent of Gazans are under the age of 29 and UNRWA has a big responsibility towards young people, particularly in our schools. So, this initiative enables us to engage, in partnership with Unbox, with young people in Gaza.”

“The second aspect is technology. I think what is really exciting is that this is putting some of the cutting-edge technology in the hands of Gazans and making it work. That is very much linked to the broader work of UNRWA, to digitize a lot of our work and a lot of the support that we undertake with the community”, added White.

“The third aspect of the project we want to look at is the issue of waste, the environment and how we recycle waste. UNRWA is making a commitment to be greener and partner with the community on the environment, and I think it is a good way for us to start engaging on the issues of how we look after the environment.”

Aligned with several Sustainable Development Goals (notably 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, and 17), UNRWA envisions expanding the UNLitter Gaza program throughout the Gaza Strip following the pilot's success. The program's core objectives include responsible waste disposal, modernizing recycling protocols, raising environmental awareness, mobilizing the community in eco-activities, advancing technological adoption, broadening the initiative's impact to surrounding schools and refugee camps, prioritizing long-term environmental betterment, and accelerating Gaza's digital economy.

Erik Saelens, CEO of Unbox, said: “Unbox is committed to digital inclusion, aiming to bridge the technological divide regardless of geographic constraints. True success in innovation does not solely rely on advanced technologies like 5G and AI, but on ensuring that a vast majority of the global population (users) are not left behind. This initiative showcases our goal of making advanced technology accessible even in regions with limited resources.”

UNLitter Gaza is an environmental initiative dedicated to fostering a cleaner and greener Gaza through community engagement, recycling education, and the utilization of innovative technology. The mission is to empower individuals to become stewards of their environment and take positive steps towards sustainability.

The Gaza Strip is facing recurrent rounds of conflict and a persistent 16-year blockade; Eighty per cent of the population in the Gaza Strip is dependent on humanitarian assistance; Three out of four Gazans rely on emergency food assistance.

There are 1.6 million Palestine Refugees registered with UNRWA in Gaza, of which 1.2 million receive emergency food and cash assistance.

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