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.