UNRWA Welcomes Austrian Minister to the West Bank

24 April 2014
UNRWA Welcomes Austrian Minister to the West Bank

East Jerusalem 

On 23 April, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, welcomed Sebastian Kurz, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria, on an official visit to the West Bank.  

Mr. Krähenbühl and David Hutton, Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, accompanied the minister to Am’ari camp, where they visited one of the 99 UNRWA schools in the West Bank that educate over 51,000 young Palestine refugees. Mr. Kurz met with the school parliament in Am’ari, talking with the students about their daily life and their plans for the future. 

The officials also toured the Am’ari health centre and received a briefing on the UNRWA health programme in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), which benefits from valued Austrian support. UNRWA health officials Dr. Mohammad Khalili and Maha El Sheikh explained the different health-care services offered to refugees, including the family protection programme, and briefed the minister on the recently introduced Family Health Team approach.

In Am’ari, Mr. Kurz expressed the support for UNRWA from the Government of Austria and announced Austria’s continued commitment to helping the Agency maintain its services for Palestine refugees. He said: "I feel honoured to have met these young women and men today. Their strength and resilience is exemplary. Austria is proud to help UNRWA provide them with the support they critically need, especially in the area of health, to ensure that Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank have universal access to quality comprehensive primary health care, to protect and promote family health and to prevent and control diseases." 

Mr. Krähenbühl thanked Mr. Kurz for his support and said: “This is a time of great challenges for Palestine refugees in the West Bank, who often bear the brunt of restrictions on movement and access. We are grateful to the Government and the people of Austria for their long-standing support to UNRWA and for helping us provide the assistance Palestine refugees need."

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:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0724

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