The 1948 Palestinian exodus, also known as the Nakba, literally "disaster", occurred when more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Israeli invasion.
On 8 December 2019, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) marked 70 years in service for millions of registered Palestine refugees, who have been confronted with extremes in violence, suffering and injustice.
“Following the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1948, UNRWA was established by the United Nations General Assembly to carry out direct relief and works program for Palestine refugees”, UNRWA said in a statement marking its 70th founding anniversary. “Today, some 5.5 million Palestine refugees in the Agency’s five fields of operations – Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – are eligible for the Agency’s services.”
UNRWA said that over the past seven decades, Palestine refugees have gone through extremes in violence, suffering and injustice. As a result, they are currently confronted with daunting human development and protection challenges, which stand to hinder their significant potential.
“Humanitarian conditions across much of the UNRWA areas of operation are grave, exacerbated by protracted conflict and the lack of political progress”, the Agency’s statement read.
UNRWA said while its 70th Anniversary provides an occasion for sober reflection on Palestinian exile, it also affords a moment to consider the contribution that the Agency’s programs have made to the lives of generations of Palestine refugees.
“Through primary education and health care, social safety-net interventions, the building and maintenance of homes and infrastructure, microfinance and protection services, and humanitarian assistance in times of emergency, UNRWA continues to be a positive force in the lives of Palestinians”, it stated.
This “solemn occasion” serves as a reminder of the plight of Palestinian refugees caused by decades of displacement, dispossession and daily violence which they have been subjected to since their “catastrophic displacement” in 1948, the establishment of camps in the 1950s, the second flight during the 1967 war, the war in Lebanon, and the unrest from the second half of the 1980s to the present moment.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.