Kites of Hope, Commemoration for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami

18 March 2012

Gaza children support Japan

Gaza

One thousand children attending UNRWA schools in Gaza have flown kites in a symbolic show of support or “kizuna” the Japanese word for solidarity, with the children of Japan and victims of the earthquake and tsunami a year ago. The event took place at the Japan-funded UNRWA health centre and re-housing project in Khan Younis.

The Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, Christer Nordahl said, “It is typical of the children of Gaza who experience so much hardship to think of children suffering elsewhere in the world. It is a wonderful and creative symbolic act of solidarity.”

The inspiration for the event was a man in Japan called Akihiko. After seeing the UNRWA children in Gaza break the Guinness World Record for kite flying last year, was moved to mount a similar in memory of the tragedy. Over the past week, he has mobilized children and adults in 23 locations in Japan, and 5 countries worldwide. Gaza is the latest to join.

In a message from Japan, Akihiko said, “it is really, really a wonderful festivity that you are flying ‘kites of hope‘ . Amazing! I am sure that your kiting today will greatly encourage Japanese people living in the area stricken by disaster. Let‘s fly kites high up to the sky to let sorrows and fears turn to hope”.

UNRWA delivers relief and social services to over a million refugees in Gaza. The Agency receives generous funding from the government and people of Japan, and since the devastating earthquake and tsunami and today, Japan has contributed US$ 23 million to UNRWA.

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$ 70.5 million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0724

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