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 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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Gaza Emergency 1