UNRWA Commissioner-General to visit Brazil

09 August 2012

9 August 2012

The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is to arrive shortly on an official visit to Brazil. During the trip, which begins on Monday, 13 August, Filippo Grandi will meet the foreign minister and senior foreign ministry officials, as well as those from other leading ministries in Brasilia. He will also visit Porto Alegre, to meet members of the large Palestinian diaspora, and will hold a number of meetings with public and private sector officials in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Speaking on the eve of his trip, Grandi said: “I am delighted to travel to Brazil on the first official visit by an UNRWA Commissioner-General. I look forward to the opportunity to thank the Brazilian government and people, who have been so generous in providing support to UNRWA and the nearly five million Palestine refugees we serve across the Middle East: in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.”

Brazilian annual contributions to UNRWA have increased from less than one million US dollars per year until last year, to USD 7.5 million today. This makes Brazil the leading Latin American donor to UNRWA and its largest donor among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).

“As the biggest and oldest UN agency working with Palestinians in the Middle East, our history and the geographic spread of our work make us a unique partner for Brazil”, said Grandi. “One of our ‘added values’ is that we have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinian people, delivering education, health, relief and social services for 64 years and through many conflicts and crises in the region.”

With over 20,000 teaching staff, UNRWA runs nearly 700 schools across the Middle East, bringing education to half a million children every day. The Agency also has ten vocational training institutes that have allowed thousands of well-qualified men and women to access job markets.

UNRWA also runs nearly 150 primary health-care facilities, with 5,000 staff providing health services. It strives to address the needs of a quarter million vulnerable and poor refugees, and it works with refugee communities to improve the quality of infrastructure and housing in refugee camps.

The Agency’s microfinance initiatives enable entrepreneurs to generate sustainable incomes for themselves, their families, and their communities. Since it began in 1991, UNRWA’s microfinance programme has awarded over USD 200 million in loans, including products that target women and youth.

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$ 100 million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications & Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724