Austria and UNRWA Graduate 26 Women from Nahr el-Bared

21 April 2010

Nahr el-Bared, Lebanon
8 April 2010

The Ambassador of Austria to Lebanon, H.E. Eva Maria Ziegler and the Director of UNRWA Affairs Lebanon, Salvatore Lombardo, participated in the graduation ceremony of 26 women from Nahr el-Bared camp (NBC) who completed courses in baking, sweet-making and sewing at the Nahr el-Bared Women’s Program Centre (WPC), a community-based organisation supported by UNRWA. The courses are among some of the activities in the ongoing project to provide support and build the capacities of girls and women from Nahr el-Bared, funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation for EUR 503,850 (approximately US$ 652,655)

The project has been designed to address psychosocial problems caused by the 2007 conflict, and to provide women and girls with the necessary skills and support for them to participate to the overall economic recovery of NBC. The project also includes support to the WPC with equipment as well as staff to manage the distribution of small loans and micro-financing, provide psycho-social support, and run recreational activities in addition to the centre’s regular courses in computer training and English language.

Grants and loans targeting women who have managed to re-establish small-scale enterprises are currently being distributed. So far, out of 137 applications received, 79 grants and 13 loans have been distributed.

Thanking Austria for its continuous support to UNRWA and to Palestine refugees, Salvatore Lombardo said during the ceremony: “This generous donation ensures that women and girls from NBC are able to contribute to the physical and socio-economic recovery of Nahr el-Bared. Economic opportunity provides the basis for progress and I very much hope that we will continue to see support to Palestine refugees on this issue.”

In the aftermath of the NBC conflict, Austria responded with generosity to the humanitarian emergency by contributing over $0.9 million to relief operations and nearly US$0.65 million for the reconstruction of NBC. In 2007, Austria also donated US$0.4 million to the camp improvement initiative.

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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$ 68 million.

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