Gaza families move into new shelters built by UNRWA with funding from the Netherlands

24 April 2012

24 April 2012
Khan Younis, Gaza Strip

Providing new shelter to over 1,300 Palestinians living in Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) held an inauguration ceremony today to officially hand over the 223 housing units constructed with a USD 7.2 million donation from the Government of the Netherlands.

“We feel that these shelters represent a new beginning for the refugees”, said Birgitta Tazelaar, the representative of the Netherlands to the Palestinian Authority. “We hope that they become a symbol of hope for all Gazans who dream of a life free of restrictions and poverty.”

In addition to camp shelters, the Dutch contribution funded roads, water infrastructure, and an electricity system, dramatically improving the substandard and often hazardous living conditions of refugee families in Khan Younis.

“We are grateful to the Government of the Netherlands for its consistent support for our work and for Palestine refugees”, said Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA. “This contribution does more than rebuild homes; it rebuilds lives.”

One of the most densely populated areas in the world, new shelters are a priority in the refugee camps of Gaza. Large families are often cramped in unsafe shelters – one of the results of prevalent overcrowding and poverty, of property destruction from the 2008-2009 Gaza War, and of Israeli restrictions on the import of construction materials.

As one of the few agencies granted limited exemptions to these restrictions, UNRWA has initiated camp infrastructure projects throughout the Gaza Strip so families can rebuild their lives and take ownership over their futures.

“We encourage Israel to provide UNRWA with an additional exemption to finish the remaining construction work as soon as possible” added Tazelaar. “This would allow for an additional 521 housing units.”

Background information:

The Netherlands has been an active member of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission since 2005, giving USD 154.9 million in voluntary contributions since 2007. As the Agency’s eighth-largest donor last year, the Netherlands contributed USD 26 million for its human development programmes and humanitarian aid in 2011.

UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for nearly 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, social safety-net, camp infrastructure and improvement, community support, microfinance and emergency response, including in times of armed conflict.

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from States. The Agency’s core budget for 2012-2013 stands at USD 1.33 billion. In 2012, emergency appeals for the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon amounted to USD 344.0 million.

For more information please contact:

Birgitta Tazelaar
Netherlands’ Representative to the Palestinian Authority
Office: +972 (0)2 240 6639
birgitta.tazelaar@minbuza.nl

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
c.gunness@unrwa.org

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724
s.mshasha@unrwa.org

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$ 56 million.

For more information, please contact: