Active ageing: Growing older with dignity

05 April 2012

UNRWA Marks World Health Day

5 April 2012

To mark World Health Day on 7 April, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is carrying out a series of events and activities in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, to highlight ageing and the plight of ageing populations. The activities are inspired by the global theme of the day devised by the World Health Organisation: “Good health adds life to years”. These include medical activities such as blood screening, but also awareness-raising events such as theatre pieces on the theme of active ageing.

“This is a very timely theme for the world population and the five million Palestine refugees we serve”, said Dr. Akihiro Seita, director of UNRWA’s health programme. “In 2004, around 420,000 refugees registered with UNRWA were older than 60. In 2011, this number increased to around 630,000, which is 12 per cent of the entire refugee population. For Palestine refugees, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are the leading causes of death.”

Dr. Seita also had a special message for young people: “I would like to call for collaboration with youth. It is the young people who will bear the economic, social and emotional problems of non-communicable diseases throughout their lives. It is also the young people we should focus on for prevention and a healthy-lifestyle approach. This is our second commitment to youth, declared recently in Brussels at the Engaging Youth conference convened by UNRWA.”

For Palestine refugees, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease account for 70 to 80 per cent of all deaths. Combating this has been a major health priority for the Agency over the last decade. In 2011, UNRWA provided care for around 212,000 people with diabetes and hypertension, double the number of cases in 2002.

UNRWA is undergoing a root and branch reform of its health services. The Agency is improving its services through the introduction of the family health team system in its health centres. A family-centred service, this holistic approach will ensure comprehensive and continuous care. It is essential for the care of non-communicable diseases, which affect refugees for life and require lifestyle changes around diet, exercise, and smoking cessation.

The family health team approach is expanding. At present, it has been introduced in 11 UNRWA health centres, serving almost 500,000 Palestine refugees. The initial response from the community is extremely positive. The Agency plans to extend the family health team approach to all 138 health centres by 2015.

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Background information

UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for nearly 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, social safety-net, camp infrastructure and improvement, community support, microfinance and emergency response, including in times of armed conflict.

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by contributions from States. The Agency’s core budget for 2012-2013 stands at USD 1.33 billion. In 2012, emergency appeals for the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon amounted to USD 344.0 million.

For more information please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724

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:

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