Inauguration of Deir Al-Qasi Preparatory School Address

12 November 2009

Saida, Lebanon

Your Excellency Mr. Patrick Laurent
Representatives of the Lebanese Government and Army
Representatives of the Palestinian Community
UNRWA Colleagues,
Distinguished guests

It is my pleasure to be with you today to inaugurate the Deir Al-Qasi Preparatory School.

Construction of this school has been made possible through the generous financial contribution of the European Union. On behalf of UNRWA and Palestine refugees, I express my deep appreciation for European support, and particularly that of the EC delegation. I also take this opportunity to thank the European Union for the building of other UNRWA schools in Lebanon as part of its EU Education Project, and other important infrastructure projects such as in Burj Barajneh camp and Mar Elias in Beirut.

We are also grateful to the government of Lebanon for its cooperation as well as to the PLO which provided land to build the Deir Al-Qasi school.

Through its mandate to deliver basic services to Palestine refugees, UNRWA attaches particular attention to the provision of education and to ensuring that every child has access to quality education. For Palestine refugee families and communities who have lived in exile for so long, education is essential to pave the way to a successful and productive future.

The building of this school, which is the largest under the EU project, as well as the other new schools recently inaugurated in Talabaya have meant 155 additional classrooms for Palestinian children. This allows for a more comprehensive educational environment, notably ending double shift, opening opportunities for recreational activities after classes in the afternoon, increasing the time teachers can spend with students and offering computer and science laboratories.

Today’s inauguration is an example of what can be achieved when we join forces, UNRWA, donors, host authorities and beneficiaries. Until a just and lasting solution to the refugees’ plight is achieved, it is my hope that we will continue to work side by side to contribute to the development of healthy, peaceful and well educated Palestinian communities.

Thank you.

Background Information

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, and microfinance.

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 deficit stands at US$ 100 million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications & Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724