20 October 2012
Rafah, Gaza Strip
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) opened a new Greek-funded school in southern Gaza yesterday that will serve Palestine refugee children and young people in the Rafah area. The school provides much-needed educational space for approximately 1,120 boys and girls in one of the most densely-populated areas of the occupied Palestinian territory.
Opening the school in Gaza were UNRWA’s Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis and Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Christer Nordahl. Ellis welcomed the contribution.
“Over half the population of Gaza is under the age of 18”, she said.
“Given the harsh socio-economic circumstances in which Gazan children live, the right to education holds particularly critical importance.
“I want to thank the government of Greece for helping to give the children of Gaza a quality education – and a chance for the future.”
The USD 1.5 million donation was originally made in February 2009 in the immediate aftermath of the three-week Israeli military operation in Gaza. Because of ongoing restrictions on the entry of construction materials into the coastal strip, completion of the school was delayed until last month.
Ellis also paid tribute to the assorted UNRWA teachers, students, and parents present at the ceremony.
“They are the heart-beat of UNRWA’s educational system”, she said.
“I trust this new school will provide a good home for you, your children, and your students to excel in reaching your unlimited potential.”
Also speaking at the opening ceremony, Greek Consul General Sotirios Athanassiou said that Greece remains a strong supporter of UNRWA and its humanitarian and human development work throughout the region.
“Supporting refugees’ education is one of the most important elements of our support”, he said.
“We strongly believe that investing in the education sector guarantees a better future of the youth of Palestine, and this project constitutes one more token of friendship and solidarity between our two peoples.”
UNRWA is building 100 new schools as part of its reconstruction plan to combat the problem of severe overcrowding in its operating schools in Gaza. In order to accommodate all students, 90 per cent of the Agency’s school buildings in Gaza are currently forced to operate on a double-shift basis, where one “school” of students attends in the morning, and the other “school” uses the facilities in the afternoon.
The Greek contribution has helped to meet the urgent need for new schools and reduce the need for double-shifting. It has paid for the creation of a new facility housing 32 classrooms, one library, four computer science and science laboratories, and one special needs room, amongst other features.
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UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the budget deficit stands at USD 37 million.
From 2007 to 2011, Greece supported the Palestinian people through contribution to UNRWA’s core services, including education and health. The government also targeted its donations to projects in the areas of information and communication technology, gender mainstreaming, and staff training. The most recent completed project inaugurated May 2012 was the construction and equipment of the new Saftawi Health Centre in Jabalia camp in northern Gaza.
For more information, please contact:
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724
Press and Information, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mobile: +972 (0)54 627 4164
Office: +972 (0)2 56 19 583 ext. 105