UN team visits Burj Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp

23 June 2011

22 June 2010

Members of the United Nations Communications Group and other UN officials in Lebanon today visited the Burj Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp to look into their social and economic conditions. The visit was organised with UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, which gave the delegation a presentation on the history of the camp, its current living conditions and services it provides to its residents.

The visit included a tour of homes and shelters of several families in the camp, where the team saw for themselves the living conditions of refugees and reaffirmed the commitment of the world organisation, and UNRWA in particular, to improve their situation, provide basic services in the camps and help address some of their pressing problems.

Director of the UN Information Centre in Beirut, Bahaa Elkoussy, said the UN team toured many of the camp’s quarters and alleys and visited the UNRWA clinic there. They also stopped at the Centre for Women‘s Programmes, which offers life skills courses and organises awareness sessions on gender issues as well health, social and legal rights. The Centre also organises recreational activities for young students during summer holidays.

The visit also came within the framework of the "Dignity for All" programme, funded by the European Union, which aims to change the perceptions between both the Lebanese people and the Palestinian communities by mainly raising awareness and highlighting the positive aspects that everybody should build on. UNRWA officials accompanying the delegation said although Palestinians and the Lebanese have been living together in Lebanon for 62 years now, they do not know much about each other and there is a feeling of apprehension prevailing over their relationship. They said UNRWA is pushing for a life in dignity that preserves all human values for Palestinians in Lebanon and preserves their refugee status until a final and just solution is reached to their problem.

The UN team visited shelters of some of the poorest refugee families and had discussions with their members and other camp residents. The delegation also met with a group of Palestinian women and discussed with them the conditions of their families and a programme of micro loans provided by a local non-governmental organisation to solve some of their problems and enable others to start small businesses.

The visit aims to provide an opportunity for UN officials to see for themselves the living conditions of these camps in Lebanon, check their facilities and installations, and to have a better understanding of problems of refugees and the difficulties they are grappling with. Members of the delegation hailed from the UN Resident Coordinator Office, the UN Development Program, the UN Information Centre, the Office of Human Rights, the UN Volunteers program and the UN Truce Supervision Organization.

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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