UNRWA West Bank director plants olive trees in Burin

15 February 2011

15 February 2011
Burin, West Bank

Barbara Shenstone planting a treeBarbara Shenstone, the director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank, joined workers from UNRWA’s job creation programme (JCP) in planting olive trees on land in the West Bank village of Burin threatened with confiscation.

JCP workers planted 360 olive trees in the presence of the representatives of Palestinian ministries, partners, and ECHO, the European Union’s humanitarian aid department.

Ms Shenstone’s participation reflects UNRWA’s continuous support for Palestinian refugees and farmers to help them protect their lands. She stressed the significance of UNRWA‘s partnership with local community organisations and village councils.

Protecting land

Ms Shenstone said planting olive trees was a way to protect Palestinian lands from confiscation by Israeli settlers. The activity would also attract international attention to the village, she added.

Local people were hired to plant and maintain the trees, bringing employment to the community. Planting olive trees supports the local economy, with trees a lifetime donation. UNRWA’s indicators show that products derived from olive trees provide long-term financial support for many Palestinian families.

Tree donations

Yesterday’s planting was made possible thanks to the generosity of UNRWA’s online donors, hundreds of whom took part in a survey in autumn 2010 to help the Agency find out more about its supporters around the world. In return for their time, everyone who responded to the survey had a tree planted in their name.

Sami Mshasha, UNRWA spokesperson, said: “UNRWA was able to make this lasting difference on the ground in Burin thanks to the generous gift – of time and money – of members of the public from all over the world. We at UNRWA, and the Palestine refugees we serve, thank them.”

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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, 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 more than US$ 106  million.

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