Acting UNRWA Com-Gen's visit to Yarmouk camp, 4 December 2019. UNRWA photo
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has warned that the humanitarian situation in Palestinian refugee camps and communities in Syria is alarming.
This came during a visit paid by UNRWA’s Acting Commissioner-General, Christian Saunders, to Syria between 3 and 6 December, during which time he met with Palestine refuges and UNRWA staff and held meetings with a number of Syrian government officials.
In conversation with two Palestine refugee women receiving UNRWA cash assistance, Saunders heard first-hand accounts of the pain, despair and profound sense of loss they endure. He also received appeals to continue providing humanitarian assistance to help them survive amidst the hard conditions Palestine refugees are going through in Syria, according to a Dece.9 press release by UNRWA.
In Sbeineh camp in Rif Damashq - previously an embattled area to the south of Damascus to which Palestine refugees have returned - he toured UNRWA installations and met with representatives of the UNRWA school parliament.
“Dream big, keep your dreams, and work hard to realize your dreams,” Saunders said while addressing the students.
He also travelled to Yarmouk, once a bustling area home to some 160,000 Palestine refugees and the enduring symbol of the Palestine refugee diaspora. The camp has been the scene of fierce clashes and now lies in ruins. Seventy-five per cent of the Agency’s 23 premises, including 16 schools, need to be completely rebuilt and all three of the Agency’s health centres in Yarmouk are completely destroyed.
“The scale of the destruction in Yarmouk is unimaginable and the situation is desperate and appalling”, said Saunders.
His field trip to the Yalda neighborhood of Damascus allowed him to meet with Palestine refugees from Yarmouk receiving UNRWA services. Many of the refugee men and women present at a distribution of food and hygiene materials were displaced from Yarmouk camp and described the human impact of the Syria conflict.
Saunders observed that, “The distribution in Yalda testifies to UNRWA’s commitment to provide essential assistance to the conflict-affected Palestine refugees. It is important that we are able to continue providing the life-saving support to Palestine refugees from Yarmouk in surrounding neighborhoods.”
The Acting Commissioner-General also attended a ceremony to commemorate the International Day of People with Disabilities, which included songs and dances. The event also featured three inspiring stories about persons with disabilities who rose above their disabilities and became active members in their communities. It was also an occasion for the persons with disabilities to reaffirm their right to inclusion and full participation in the community through UNRWA programs.
At a town hall meeting of UNRWA staff in Syria, the Acting UNRWA Commissioner-General said: “UNRWA was an extremely effective and professional organization that used donor funds wisely when I joined it 30 years ago. Today, it remains an extremely effective and professional organization that uses donor funds judiciously.”
“We will see an UNRWA that is fit for purpose, an Agency with a ten year plan, an Agency that is dedicated to education, health, and other humanitarian services and one that focuses on addressing the youth and leveraging technology as keys to a future for all”, he added.
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.