Italian Minister for International Cooperation and Integration meets Palestine refugees displaced from Syria

15 April 2013

13 April 2013

The Italian Minister for International Cooperation and Integration, Andrea Riccardi, has visited Shatila refugee camp near Beirut to meet with Palestine refugees displaced from Syria and witness first-hand their difficult living conditions.

On a tour of the camp, Minister Riccardi met with Palestine refugee families who have fled the on-going violence in Syria. The families talked about the displacement and suffering they have experienced as a result of the conflict. They described the challenges they face as second-time refugees in Lebanon, especially housing requirements and the lack of affordable basic necessities.

Minister Riccardi was accompanied by the Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, H.E Giuseppe Morabito, the Director of the Italian Cooperation Office in Lebanon, Guido Benevento, and UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr.

Ann Dismorr thanked the visitors for the support provided to the refugees by the government and people of Italy, saying: “We are very thankful for Italy’s continued support for Palestine refugees in Lebanon. Today’s visit is very important in highlighting the situation of Palestine refugees who have fled from Syria to Lebanon.

“The urgency of responding to their vulnerable situation and providing them with assistance cannot be over-emphasised.”

Italy has been especially active in supporting the health sector and sports activities for Palestine refugees in Lebanon. In particular, it has been a pioneer in supporting reforms currently being undertaken by UNRWA to improve health care coverage. In 2012, Italy contributed EUR 1 million to support UNRWA’s health reform efforts in Lebanon. Italy remains the leading contributor to that reform effort.

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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