Commissioner-General Ends Visit to Syria Field

24 February 2010

Urges Further Donor Support

Damascus, 23 February 2010

UNRWA Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi, closed his three-day visit to the UNRWA Syria field on a positive note, saying that “as long as UNRWA is not afraid of change, conditions will continue to improve: with innovation, organisation and creativity. I want to see more and more of this in my tenure as Commissioner-General.”

In talks with the diplomatic and donor community on Sunday, the Commissioner-General iterated the gravity of the financial challenges facing the Agency. He urged further support, emphasising that the Agency’s ability to preserve basic, quality services for Palestine refugees was at risk.

After briefings on two key initiatives of UNRWA in Syria, Engaging Youth and the Neirab Rehabilitation Project, the Commissioner-General stressed that these initiatives are good models that will inform Agency projects region-wide.

The Commissioner-General had positive meetings with Syrian government officials, focusing on mutual goals and strategies to face the challenging financial situation.

His meeting with President Bashar al-Assad was “an opportunity to thank the Syrian government for its provision of infrastructure, living space and stable working conditions,” Grandi said during a press discussion. He went on to note that it was important to bring the Palestine refugees in Syria to the attention of the international community, and that in this area, aid appeals for specific challenges were a promising fundraising method.

After the conclusion of the press discussion in the early afternoon of Tuesday, the Commissioner-General departed Syria for Amman, Jordan.

UNRWA is a humanitarian and human development agency, providing education, health care, social services, micro-credit and emergency relief to over 4.7 million registered refugees living in the five fields of operation: Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. In Syria, the Agency provides assistance to almost 470,000 refugees.

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Hala Mukhles
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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 more than US$ 106  million.

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