Australian Paralympic Champion Kurt Fearnley visits Syria

18 February 2009


Tonight at the AAMAL theatre in Damascus and in front of an audience of more than 200 people, Australian disabled athlete Kurt Fearnley gave a powerful speech stressing the importance of raising awareness amongst the community, especially young people, on issues confronting persons with disabilities. Listening on were members of the Syrian Olympic Team, members of the Central Council for Persons with Disability, parents and friends of children with disabilities and several associations working to advance the rights of vulnerable people.

"The power of will", expressed Fearnley when talking about his life story and how it has inspired countless numbers able-bodied and disabled people around the globe. An ambassador for the International Day of Persons with Disability, Kurt Fearnley was born without the lower portion of his spine; but this has never held him back. He has won nine Paralympic medals, three of them of gold; and has taken part in Marathons worldwide. He is a much respected figure in Australia and a vivid example of human triumph for all of us.

At the end of his keynote speech, organized by UNRWA in cooperation with AAMAL organization for persons with disability and Australian Volunteers International, Fearnley interacted with the audience, answering questions and sharing smiles. Mr. Filipo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA, and Mr. Panos Moumtzis, Director General of UNRWA Affairs Syria, took part in the event.

"We are very pleased Mr. Fearnley’s accepted UNRWA’s invitation and are honored to be able to host him in Syria. His visit and words will be an inspiration for young Palestine refugees, who are at the core of our actions" said Mr. Moumtzis

During his two-day visit to Syria, Mr. Fearnley also met with physiotherapists, disability workers and sport teachers at UNRWA‘s Education Development Centre in Yarmouk to discuss modes of treatment for the physically disabled and inclusive sport activity. Tomorrow morning, before leaving the country, he will also meet with over 30 UNRWA disabled and able-bodied students and inspect the facilities at Jarmaq School in Yarmouk.

For more information on Mr. Fearnley please visit

For information only. Not an official record.

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 more than US$ 106  million.

For more information, please contact:

Hala Mukhles
Public Information Officer - Syria Field Office
+ 963 (0) 940 88103
+ 963 (0) 940 88103

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