The Consul General of the Kingdom of Belgium in East Jerusalem, Bruno Jans, and Consul Florence Duvieusart, Deputy Head of Development Cooperation, visited the West Bank on 19 March for a briefing on Palestine refugee issues by a delegation of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The tour began at Jalazone camp, where the Agency’s Chief Area Officer for the Jerusalem region, Yousef Hushiyeh, told the Belgian officials about the camp’s situation, the services that UNRWA provides and the daily challenges that camp inhabitants face. Dr. Umayyah Khammash, the Chief of the UNRWA health programme in the West Bank, organized a visit to the Jalazone health center, where he explained the different health-care services offered to refugees, including the family protection programme.
The delegation was also briefed about the Belgium-funded emergency cash-for-work programme and UNRWA approaches to food insecurity inside and outside the camps. As Mr. Jans and Ms. Duvieusart visited the nearby Jalazone Boys’ School and climbed to the roof for a view of the camp and a nearby Israeli settlement, the UNRWA team talked about the impact of Israeli law-enforcement activities in the camp, including the arrest and interrogation of children.
In the village of Biddu, which lies in a ‘Seam Zone’ (between the 1949 Armistice Line and the West Bank barrier), UNRWA staff briefed the visiting officials about the Barrier’s impact on local agriculture. For farmers who need special permits and prior coordination in order to access their fields, the system has had a serious impact on their livelihoods.
At the end of the visit, the Consul General noted: “It’s very interesting to see in practice the dimensions of the work that UNRWA actually does for Palestinian refugees and its impact on them in real life.” He added: “This was an eye-opening tour that helps us get a better grasp of the daily reality refugees live.”
The Kingdom of Belgium, a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission since 1953, is a major UNRWA partner, and has supported the Agency with over US$ 72 million since 2007 alone.