Who We Are

The total population

The total population

1980

The total population of Palestine refugees surpasses 2 million.

Israel invades Lebanon

6th June 1982

Israel invades Lebanon. Several hundred Palestine refugees and other civilians are massacred in the Sabra and Shatila districts of south Beirut from 16 to 18 September. In response to these events, UNRWA launches a large-scale emergency relief programme. Israel withdraws its forces from Lebanon in 2000.

distribution of general rations

September 1982

UNRWA discontinues the distribution of general rations in all fields except Lebanon.

The First Intifada

The First Intifada

9th December 1987

A spontaneous popular uprising in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, after more than 20 years of military occupation, begins. Now known as the first intifada, it is marked by demonstrations, boycotts, tax resistance, strikes and largely unarmed protests; the response is severe and harsh. UNRWA establishes an emergency fund to coordinate its response; in 1990, this is merged with a similar fund for Lebanon, operating since 1982, to form the Extraordinary Measures for Lebanon and the Occupied Territories (EMLOT).

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We provide assistance and protection for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. UNRWA also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.

The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.

Establishment

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950.

In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2017.

> Read the UN Resolution

Palestine refugees

UNRWA is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees. It has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees, defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration. 

UNRWA services are available to all those living in its areas of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.

> More on Palestine refugees

Human Development Goals
The United Nations describes human development in the following terms...
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon administered the oath of office to Pierre Krähenbühl, new Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), 20 April 2015. The Secretary-General (left) with Mr. Krähenbühl after the swearing in. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Pierre Krähenbühl has served as UNRWA Commissioner-General since...
Organizational Structure
UNRWA is one of the largest United Nations programmes, with over 30,...
UNRWA Advisory Commission Meeting, June 2014. © 2014 UNRWA Photo by Alaa Ghoseh
The Advisory Commission was created by UN Resolution 302 (IV) on 8...
Reforming UNRWA
In 2007, UNRWA began a comprehensive reform programme to strengthen...
UNRWA Advisory Commission Meeting, June 2014. © 2014 UNRWA Photo by Alaa Ghoseh
This section deals with general queries about UNRWA. For the Agency’s...

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