Yarmouk, Meeting with internally displaced refugees that took
shelter in al-Faloujeh School.
Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi today visited UNRWA operations in Syria, where some 3,700 staff continue to offer education, health and social safety-net services to over 500,000 Palestine refugees, while also responding to the humanitarian needs arising from the armed conflict in Syria.
In Yarmouk, at UNRWA’s Engaging Youth Centre, the Commissioner-General observed ongoing activities under the Engaging Youth Project, noting that the Project continues to be appreciated by the community. In an open discussion with a group of young Palestine refugees, he heard first-hand testimonies of the devastating social and human impact of the Syria conflict and received appeals for the international community to redouble efforts to achieve a cessation of hostilities. While emphasising the need for UNRWA to maintain its operational presence in Syria, the youth asked the Agency to do more to assist and protect the refugees. Speaking to the refugees, Grandi said: “I stress the need for all Palestinians to maintain their neutrality and I commend young Palestine refugees on their efforts to help the community and support families in need.”
Yarmouk,Visting a classroom at al-Faloujeh School which has been hit by shelling.
The Commissioner-General observed the registration process for Palestine refugees seeking humanitarian assistance as a result of the Syria conflict. He toured UNRWA schools that are continuing to operate in Yarmouk and visited an UNRWA school building which is serving as temporary accommodation for Syrians and Palestinians who have left their homes in search of safety. In his interactions with the displaced people, he heard first-hand descriptions of the hardships and sense of dislocation they endure and heard direct appeals for more humanitarian assistance to be provided by UN agencies in Syria.
The Commissioner-General discussed extensively with UNRWA staff the operational challenges imposed by the armed conflict in Syria and ways in which their efforts can be effectively supported. As UNRWA staff live among the Palestinian communities they serve, they also face the risks of death and injury, and they experience displacement and the severe trauma of the conflict environment. UNRWA staff are also affected by the economic impact of the conflict. The sharing of these experiences gave the Commissioner-General a personal sense of the courage and commitment of UNRWA staff. He expressed his appreciation and gratitude and encouraged staff to maintain their exemplary sense of duty. He expressed sorrow that UNRWA staff were among the casualties of the Syria conflict.
While in Yarmouk, Commissioner-General Grandi met the families of Jihad Suleiman and Rihab Awadallah, two of the five UNRWA staff who lost their lives in the conflict. He expressed his condolences and thanked the bereaved families for the contributions Mr. Suleiman and Dr. Awadallah made to educating Palestine refugee children and to UNRWA’s work generally.
Meeting the families of Jihad Suleiman and Rihab Awadallah
The Commissioner-General assured staff and refugees that in his interactions with government and other interlocutors in Damascus and internationally, he will continue to reiterate three primary demands: that more must be done by all sides to ensure protection for Palestine refugees and other civilians from the effects of the Syria conflict; that the neutrality of UN and UNRWA premises must be respected; and that humanitarian access must be assured and facilitated by all parties.