11 March 2012
An innovative new project of the European Union (EU) will give Palestinian families living in refugee camps in Lebanon the opportunity to rehabilitate their shelters. Worth about EUR 6 million, the initiative is financed by the Instrument for Stability, the EU mechanism to respond to crises, to facilitate recovery processes, and to pre-empt future relapses.
The funds will be transferred in instalments to the bank accounts of at least 736 refugee families, who will carry out improvements on their own shelters under the supervision of engineers from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). This new self-help approach to camp improvement promotes self-reliance among refugees by directly involving the beneficiaries in their own housing improvements.
The UNRWA-initiated project has also distributed an additional EUR 6 million in cash subsidies for displaced families from Nahr el-Bared, who are struggling to pay rent while they wait for their homes in the destroyed camp to be rebuilt.
Representing the European Commission at the funding announcement on Sunday, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera from the Foreign Policy Instruments Service said: “I am really honoured to be witnessing today a tangible example of the EU support to Palestine refugees in Lebanon. In fact, we do believe that, while awaiting more long-lasting solutions in the framework of a comprehensive and negotiated peace agreement, improved living conditions and the promotion of fundamental social and economic rights are essential conditions for refugees to live with dignity, even far away from their homeland.”
Also attending the project launch in Mar Elias camp were Ambassador Ashraf Dabbour of the Embassy of Palestine in Lebanon, Fadi Abi Al Mona representing the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, and UNRWA’s Director of Lebanon Affairs Salvatore Lombardo.
Thanking the European Union for its longstanding support, Lombardo said: “I cannot think of a more important contribution for refugees in Lebanon than improving shelter conditions. Poor housing conditions affect the well-being and health of residents. Thank you, European Union; you are helping UNRWA and making a difference in the lives of thousands of Palestine refugees in Lebanon.”
Over 4,000 refugee shelters in Lebanon are in need of repair, according to a socio-economic survey conducted last year by UNRWA and the American University of Beirut. The survey of Palestine refugees in Lebanon also found that 66 per cent are living in poverty. The dire housing conditions further contribute to the prevalence of chronic illnesses among this vulnerable population.
Including contributions from Member States, the EU is the largest donor to UNRWA – an essential element of European support for the Middle East Peace Process. Along with humanitarian aid and funds from the Instrument for Stability and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, the EU has disbursed a total of more than EUR 64 million over the past six years for UNRWA projects in Lebanon. While helping to alleviate the hardship facing the refugee population in Lebanon, this support also contributes to stability in the region.
Calavera further highlighted the EU’s ongoing commitment to UNRWA and the plight of Palestine refugees in Lebanon: “It is our intention to continue working with UNRWA and all the other stakeholders for improvements, but also for the promotion of an institutional framework in which dialogue between the Lebanese people and the Palestinian refugee community can better guarantee their fulfilment, for mutual benefit.”
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The European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. Over the period 2000 to 2011, the EU, excluding EU member states alone, has provided approximately €1.2 billion of support to the Agency. This funding has enabled human development for the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
For further information please contact Hoda Samra, UNRWA Public information officer in Lebanon: +961-70-010129 fax: +961-1-840468 or by e-mail: [email protected]