Italian embassy and UNRWA inaugurate new sports facility in Rashidieh

01 April 2010

31 March 2010

The Ambassador of Italy to Lebanon, H.E. Mr Gabriele Checchia and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Mr Salvatore Lombardo, inaugurated today a new gymnasium in the UNRWA school in Rashidieh, an initiative funded by the Cooperation office of the Embassy of Italy in Beirut for a total amount of 165.000 USD.

The ceremony took place in the new gymnastic hall of Al-Aqsa UNRWA school in Rashidieh camp, Tyre area, in the presence of representatives of UNRWA, the Italian Embassy, several delegations of UNRWA students and representatives of the local community.

The project funded the construction of a new big gymnasium with a basketball and volleyball court as well as training facilities and public seating. Through the rehabilitation of sport centres and the organisation of inter-camp sporting events, the project promotes sports as an effective instrument to encourage intercultural dialogue and tolerance.

In addition to the Rashidieh gymnasium, the Shatila sports centre was also rehabilitated in February 2010 through the Cooperation Office of the Embassy of Italy in Beirut with a contribution of 30.000 Euro. Other playgrounds and athletic fields are also being constructed by the Italian region of Puglia (in El Buss camp) and by the Municipality of Rome (Ein el-Hillweh camp).

In his address to the participants, Mr Checchia stated: “I deeply believe that sport represents an important vehicle to promote peace and dialogue and we hope that this new gymnasium will become a place where the youth play in a safe and friendly environment.” He added: “The Italian government is committed with several initiatives in favour of Palestinian refugee camps and surrounding areas and it is investing significantly in the promotion of a dialogue process between the Lebanese and Palestinians peoples, in strict collaboration and coordination with the LPDC and UNRWA.”

This new gymnasium in Rashidieh camp represents a key component of UNRWA’s focus on encouraging and supporting recreational activities for young refugees, and a unique safe space for them. Thanking Italy for its continuous support to UNRWA and to Palestine refugees, Salvatore Lombardo, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, said: “This generous donation will have a concrete impact on the children of Rashidieh. Providing youth with recreational facilities is not just about giving them an outlet from the stresses of their daily lives but also about equipping them with creative learning experiences, room for self-expression, and opportunities to develop their skills – foundations upon which the potential for a better future rest.”


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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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