Managing UNRWA collective shelters requires a skilled workforce. The Agency’s collective shelters, formerly UNRWA schools, host 8,000 of the most vulnerable Palestine refugees displaced by the war in Syria. Some, such as those who fled the besieged area of Yarmouk in 2012, have been living in these shelters for up to two years. While UNRWA has been improving shelter infrastructure by installing extra washing and bathroom facilities, it is equally committed to strengthening the management skills of staff running the centres.
Area and shelter managers from Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Dera’a recently completed a training course organized by UNRWA in partnership with the International Organization of Migration (IOM). The course was designed to equip participants with managerial skills they can use in their daily work at the shelters.
Discussions during the course were lively. Staff and IOM trainers debated crucial issues related to shelter management, protection and ways to address psychosocial needs. They also examined the planning and organizing of shelter activities, establishing community committees to problem solve, and improving communication with residents.
Collective shelter manager Zeidan al-Yateem said the course was worthwhile. He enjoyed sharing his experiences with colleagues. Commenting at the end of the course, he said, “I look forward to further opportunities to enhance our competencies for the sake of ultimately improving the lives of Palestine refugees.”
Of the 16 UNRWA-operated shelters in Syria, 13 are former UNRWA schools. Privacy is limited, with classrooms subdivided by curtains to create ‘living units’ for families; most classrooms house two to three families depending on their size. To meet the increased demand for shelter, tents have been set up in school courtyards to house additional families. To see what living in an UNRWA shelter is like, watch Ayat’s story here.
The support of donors and partnerships with humanitarian agencies such as IOM is essential to allow UNRWA to successfully respond to refugee needs. As winter approaches and refugees require heating, clothing and a warm place to live, ongoing funding will allow UNRWA to support the 440,000 Palestinians displaced by the Syrian conflict.