Austria contributes US$184,458 to UNRWA

07 May 2009

7 May 2009

Beirut

Beddawi Camp: In a ceremony held in Beddawi Camp on 7 May 2009, her Excellency the Ambassador of Austria in Lebanon, Ms. Eva Maria Ziegler, the Manager of the Nahr el Bared Reconstruction Project, Mr. Charlie Higgins, and Mrs. Hafizah Al Sharif, Centre Supervisor, inaugurated the Beddawi Multi-Purpose Centre, constructed with a generous contribution from the Government of Austria through the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

The project expands the social services in Beddawi Camp by increasing the capacity of the various programmes that will operate from this new multi-purpose building, including the Women´s Programme Centre, Youth and Child Programme and Disability Programme.

With the generous donation of USD $184,458 from Austria, UNRWA demolished the old building that used to house community activities and built an expanded new centre with upgraded equipment and furniture. The Beddawi Multi-Purpose Centre is a pilot for a new integrated approach to community-based work in Lebanon which brings multiple social services under one umbrella. The new Multi-Purpose Centre is now much more accessible to persons with disabilities and the elderly. During the construction phase of the new building, the project has been covering the rental cost of a temporary centre to enable services to continue for community members.

Expressing UNRWA‘s appreciation for the new contribution, Mr. Charlie Higgins said: "We are extremely grateful for the support given to UNRWA over the years by the Austrian Government. This particular donation will have a very positive effect on the lives of vulnerable groups in North Lebanon Area, where Palestine refugees have experienced so much suffering in the two years since the destruction of Nahr el Bared."

Some 4.6 million Palestine refugees in UNRWA’s five fields of operations – Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – are eligible for Agency services, including education, healthcare, social services, shelter, micro-credit loans and emergency aid. UNRWA employs nearly 30,000 staff, the vast majority of whom are Palestine refugees. UNRWA’s operations are financed almost entirely by voluntary contributions from donors. The entire Agency’s regular budget for 2009 is approximately $560 million, which covers the recurrent costs of the Agency’s education, health and relief and social services activities. This year the Agency faces a shortfall of $47 million.

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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$ 68.2 million.

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