UK’s Mitchell visits UNRWA school in Gaza refugee camp

22 December 2011

18 December 2011

UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell visited the UNRWA Beach Camp Elementary School in the Gaza Strip, where he joined lessons in two classrooms and spoke with teachers and pupils. He was received by UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi, who briefed the Secretary of State on UNRWA operations throughout the region and the impact of the blockade on the Agency‘s work in Gaza.

Speaking on his first visit to the area, Mr. Mitchell said:

Gaza is currently facing an education emergency, with over 40,000 refugee children unable to go to UNRWA schools. With more than 50 per cent of Gaza‘s population aged under 18, improving access to education is essential. Today, I have seen for myself the vital work that UNRWA, supported by Britain, is doing to address the problems in Gaza.

I have met children whose lives will be vastly improved by access to even the most basic education and the teachers whose dedication means their pupils have the chance of a brighter future.

The Secretary of State and Commissioner-General discussed British support for UNRWA, which the Commissioner-General described as "exemplary, not only in terms of its extraordinary financial commitment but the consistent and steadfast support for the Agency‘s work."

The UK remains one of UNRWA‘s premier donors, having increased its contribution again this year to the Agency‘s core budget. It is the third-largest donor to the core budget, which directly supports – among other activities – the education of approximately 500,000 children across the region, including those met by the Secretary of State.

Background Information

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, deepening poverty and conflict. As a result, the UNRWA General Fund, which supports core essential services and most staffing costs, operates with a large deficit. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large deficits, are funded through separate funding portals. 

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

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