26 June 2013
Finland’s Minister for International Development, Heidi Hautala, visited the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Summer Fun Weeks programme in Gaza today. She was hosted by Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi who also briefed her on UNRWA’s work in the region as well as the humanitarian situation of Gaza.
The blockade of Gaza was tightened in June 2007 and has caused economic devastation for the 1.2 million Palestine refugees living there, and for the rest of the population, including access and movement constraints and high levels of unemployment and poverty. Today, 70 per cent of the refugee population is dependent on UNRWA for food aid and other basic services.
Summer Fun Weeks offer one of the few opportunities for youth to have a safe place for play and psychological relief. This year, 150,000 youth between the ages of 6 and 15 are participating.
“The Government of Finland strongly believes in the power of youth. We are happy to contribute to these activities, which will hopefully provide the children of Gaza, both girls and boys, with an opportunity for play and self-expression free of the physical and mental constraints surrounding them”, said Minister Hautala.
Finland has been an important sponsor of UNRWA summer activities for children in Gaza, donating EUR. 1 million to Summer Games in 2009, EUR 1.5 million in 2010, EUR 1.1 million in 2011 and EUR. 2 million in 2013. The new donation is in addition to the EUR 4.5 million the Government of Finland donated to UNRWA’s General Fund for core services earlier this year.
Speaking during the visit, UNRWA Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi, said that UNRWA was offering summer activities to children in Gaza in order to provide space and resources for much-needed leisure time in a difficult environment. “The lives of the children of Gaza continue to be severely affected by the blockade,” he said. “Finland has proven again to be a strong partner to UNRWA, by contributing to the Fun Weeks, and by supporting our work at large. We welcome this donation and thank the government and people of Finland for their commitment to Palestine refugees.”
The United States of America also contributed to making UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks 2013 a success.
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$ 65 million.
For more information, please contact:
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724