25 February 2010
Barbara Shenstone, director of operations for UNRWA in the West Bank, yesterday planted an olive tree in the village of Burin, south of Nablus, in support of a project to create jobs and 'green’ the local area, which sits close to the Israeli settlement of Yitzar.
The visit followed an awards ceremony at the local boys’ school, during which Burin’s local leaders were praised for their excellent use of resources under UNRWA’s cash-for-work scheme. The programme, supported by donors including the European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO), provides temporary work for vulnerable refugees in coordination with local leaders in the West Bank.
The lucky winners were judged on their ability to create jobs for the poorest people, and for their determination to take positive action for their communities despite difficult economic and political conditions.
Burin’s leaders were praised for achieving a positive increase in the quality of life, in spite of harassment by local settlers and an economic downturn since the second intifada and the construction of the West Bank Barrier by Israel.
The programme has provided local villages with the means to employ workers for the improvement of crucial infrastructure and public areas, such as parks and schools. In Burin, with UNRWA’s support, local workers built a set of steps that for the first time connected the village’s ancient hilltop centre with the modern lower half of the town. Workers are also participating in the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture’s project to 'green Palestine’.
Yesterday, on an olive grove designated for the outskirts of the village, with the roofs of the Yitzar settlement clearly in view, Shenstone planted a small sapling and delivered a message of support for Palestine refugees and citizens: “This is their land. I wish them all the strength and will to stay.” She added: “This is not charity. This is a project for people to make their own work and to live their own lives, on the land that is theirs.”
UNRWA’s cash-for-work programme is financed by contributions from numerous donors. In 2009, ECHO was the largest donor to the project.
ECHO supports relief activities for vulnerable people around the world. In 2009 alone, ECHO contributed a total of EUR€66million to the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as a further EUR€6million in support of Palestinians in Lebanon. A total of EUR€20.9 million was given in support of UNRWA’s activities across five fields of operation; vital support that enabled the Agency to work to improve the lives of the refugees in its care.
ECHO is also the biggest donor to UNRWA’s job creation programme in the West Bank. To find out more, read the programme’s factsheet (PDF).
For more information about ECHO’s assistance to the Palestinians and its humanitarian aid worldwide, visit the ECHO website.
UNRWA and ECHO
Since 1992, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has funded relief to millions of victims of both natural disasters and man-made crises outside the EU. Aid is channeled impartially, straight to victims, regardless of their race, religion and political beliefs. For the past 18 years, ECHO has supported UNRWA through a variety of programmes.