Lebanese minister tours refugee camp, discusses cooperation with UNRWA

24 January 2012

24 January 2012
Beirut

A memorandum of understanding was signed today in Burj Barajneh Palestine refugee camp between the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and Lebanon’s Ministry of Social Affairs. Its purpose is to determine further cooperation between UNRWA and the ministry.

The memorandum was signed by His Excellency Mr. Wael Bou Faour, the Minister of Social Affairs, and Mr. Salvatore Lombardo, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon. Present were the president of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, Ambassador Abdel Majid Qassir, and the Chargé d’Affaires in the Embassy of Palestine, Mr. Ashraf Dabbour.

This memorandum sets forth cooperation with respect to assistance, care, rehabilitation, and awareness for the most vulnerable groups among the Palestine refugees, including children, orphans, women, the elderly, and people with special needs.

Ambassador Dabbour expressed his thanks on behalf of Palestine refugees in Lebanon to all those who endeavour to alleviate the suffering of these refugees in Lebanon, and added, “We reiterate the need for cooperation with the Lebanese government through the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee and in full coordination with UNRWA, and for reminding the international community of its responsibility toward our people in supporting our struggle to improve our socio-economic conditions until the return to our homeland.”

On this occasion, Minister Wael Abou Faour said, “This memorandum of understanding includes the provision of services to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Lebanon through specialised institutions of the ministry and contracted institutions.” He added that a special fund will be established by UNRWA to fund such services. Commenting on his tour inside the camp, Abou Faour called on his fellow ministers to visit a Palestinian camp, because “whoever wants to rediscover his humanity has to see the living conditions in Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon.” He also called on Lebanon and the Lebanese to overcome their apprehension of the naturalisation of Palestinians, “which obstructs us from doing what will protect the dignity and rights of Palestinians as well as the safety of the Lebanese and the Lebanese society.”

Mr. Lombardo thanked the Government of Lebanon, represented by Minister Bou Faour, and said, “This agreement with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs is an important contribution to Palestine refugees, as it allows technical expertise to the most vulnerable. The visit by the minister to Burj Barajneh Camp confirms the commitment of the minister and his ministry to improving living conditions in the interest of Lebanon and the Palestinians.”

Before signing the memorandum, Minister Bou Faour toured Burj Barajneh camp. He visited the Women’s Programme Centre and was briefed on their daily challenges. He also visited the Active Aging House and met with elderly refugees, who spoke of their memories of Palestine before the Nakba.

The visit also came within the framework of the "Dignity for All" program, funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office, which aims at changing perceptions between the Lebanese people and Palestinian communities by raising awareness and highlighting positive aspects on which to build.

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.

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