UN workers rebuild shattered food distribution centre in Gaza amid the violence; distributions continue

20 November 2012

20 November 2012
Gaza

Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Robert Turner and UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi visit Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.

Workers at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have rebuilt a badly-damaged food distribution centre in the Jabalia refugee camp, partially destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. This has allowed distributions to continue to thousands of beneficiaries. The centre was hit two days ago, but within 24 hours, UNRWA staff gathered together the necessary building materials and tools and had repaired the building to the point where it was functional again.

Read more: Emergency in Gaza

“This is yet another tribute to the bravery, resourcefulness and ingenuity of UNRWA workers”, said Robert Turner, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza. “To rebuild this facility as the violence raged is tremendously courageous, but typical of what we are seeing from UN workers right now in the Gaza Strip.”

On 19 November, after the facility was rebuilt, more than 6,500 refugees were able to pick up their food rations and feed their families. UNRWA distributes regular food aid to 800,000 refugees in Gaza. Amid the current violence, impoverished refugees are even more vulnerable and increasingly reliant on support from UNRWA.

Jabalia distribution centre is not the only UNRWA installation affected. Since the start of the latest upsurge in fighting, several UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip, including schools and medical centres, have been damaged.

UNRWA staff and students have also been affected: On 15 November, an UNRWA Arabic teacher was killed in an airstrike in Jabalia refugee camp. And yesterday, on 18 November, a Grade 4 student of a girls’ school in Beach Camp died in an airstrike. Many others have been injured.

Despite the violence, some 12,000 UNRWA staff are continuing to deliver life-saving services: health, sanitation, and food distributions. UNRWA has been forced to shut its 245 schools serving 225,000 students, but since the current round of fighting the Agency has been broadcasting 12 hours per day of educational classes on its satellite TV stations. This innovative new UN service is the first fully dedicated UN TV channel in the Middle East.

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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, microfinance and emergency assistance.

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, supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the budget deficit stands at USD 21 million.

For more information, please contact:

Chris Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
c.gunness@unrwa.org
Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724
s.mshasha@unrwa.org

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$ 68 million.

For more information, please contact:

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