UNRWA Marks Sixtieth Anniversary of Operations

01 May 2010

Six Decades of Service to Palestine Refugees

1 May 2010
UNRWA, Jerusalem

Archive photo of small childSixty years ago today, the first aid workers with the then-fledgling United Nations Relief and Works Agency arrived on the ground to assist some 750,000 Palestine refugees. This anniversary is one to be marked solemnly because the reason for UNRWA’s existence is the continuing absence of a just and lasting solution to the plight of Palestine refugees.

Also, however, it is an occasion to recall UNRWA’s contributions to a better life for Palestine refugees, creating opportunities for self-reliance for millions of them through education, health care, microfinance, social services and camp improvement programmes.

“UNRWA is unique among humanitarian actors in offering services directly to refugees in times of peace and war. Looking back, we are proud of our achievement. Looking forward, our commitment to Palestine refugees will remain steadfast pending a just and lasting solution of their plight. Then there will be no need for UNRWA,” said Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi. “As we pass this important milestone in the history of UNRWA, I salute the commitment and compassion of the Agency’s staff, including those who gave their lives in the cause of serving Palestine refugees.”

In the fields of health care, education, microfinance, social services and camp improvement, UNRWA has broken new ground throughout its 60-year history. In its areas of operation (Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank), UNRWA has seen an eight-fold reduction in infant mortality from the 1960s to the present time, exceeding World Health Organization targets for middle income countries.

Schoolgirl looking along streetIn 1951 the proportion of female pupils in UNRWA schools stood at 26 per cent, but gender equality was achieved in the 1960s and has been maintained ever since. In 1962 UNRWA opened the Ramallah Women’s Training Centre, the first vocational training centre for women in the Arab world, which has equipped thousands of highly qualified women for competitive job markets throughout the world.

UNRWA’s Microfinance Department, created in 1991, has provided services to over 20,000 refugees who have received over 100,000 loans, setting them on the path to self-reliance and prosperity. The Agency’s relief and social services programme, which supports some of the most vulnerable groups in the Middle East, has established 65 women’s centres and 37 community rehabilitation centres, serving women, people with disabilities, the young and the elderly.

Today UNRWA serves up to 4.7 million registered refugees. The majority of its 30,000 staff are teachers, working in schools across the Middle East for some 500,000 students. UNRWA, of course, remains an effective provider of humanitarian and emergency assistance when conflicts erupt, like last year in Gaza. “But with renewed emphasis on better education, on vocational training more tailored to market needs, on microfinance, and on preventive health, UNRWA – more than ever – is an organisation that helps refugees improve their conditions, seize opportunities for prosperity and self-reliance, and above all live in hope and dignity in this turbulent region,” said Grandi.

- Ends -

Christopher Gunness – 972 (0)54 240 2659
c.gunness@unrwa.org

Sami Mshasha – 972 (0)54 216 8295
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$ 70.5 million.

For more information, please contact:

Donate
$40 CAN PAY FOR A DOCTOR FOR 1 DAY