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“Community Greening” Initiative: UNRWA and the European Union open First School Garden in Gaza
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Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) opened a European Union (EU)-funded school garden at the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Elementary Co-educational School in the besieged Gaza Strip. The ceremony brought together Ayman Fteiha, Head of the EU office in Gaza, Fatma Aita, UNRWA Education Area Officer and Palestine Refugee students from the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Elementary School.
The existence of safe spaces in Gaza is vitally important, particularly during times of conflict. Fariha, a seven-year-old student at the Beit Hanoun Elementary School who participated in the opening, said, “Two of my brothers were killed during the last conflict while we were playing near our front door. It was on the last day of Ramadan. My mother was in the market buying us clothes for Eid. Now I don’t have any brothers.”
Experiences like Fariha’s demonstrate the importance of safe spaces in Gaza and the essential protection they can offer. The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, Thomas White, thanked the EU for their generous and unceasing aid to UNRWA: "Like all children around the world, these Palestine refugee boys and girls from Beit Hanoun in Gaza can now enjoy carefree play in a happy and safe space, thanks to the EU UNRWA greening initiative. These children and their families have lost siblings and family members in recent conflicts and suffer from long-term psychosocial consequences of the repeated cycles of violence. Safe spaces are vitally important for students to feel secure and engage with their community.”
Today’s garden opening continues the EU UNRWA “community greening” initiative, which is designed to foster inclusion and create outdoor spaces in several UNRWA installations for the Palestine Refugee community to gather in. The initiative has produced, restored and preserved green spaces, while simultaneously encouraging environmental awareness and recycling, nutritional education and relaxation. These spaces increase outdoor activity, stimulate social interaction and beautify neighbourhoods. Today, students demonstrated their knowledge of recycling, and gave a performance about environmental awareness, took part in physical activities, had lessons outside and planted the final trees with Mr Fteiha, the Head of EU office.
“This school is located in the northern Gaza Strip in the border zones where many of its students lost their siblings or were injured in the recurrent conflicts. To create a green area where they can play and implement environmental activities and initiatives in a safe place is an invaluable addition to the school. We are so grateful for this initiative; our students are taking responsibility of their garden and are having a lot of fun,” said Ms Zaneen, the Beit Hanoun Elementary School Principal.
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Notes to Editors:
- Beit Hanoun, in the north-east of the Gaza Strip, has an estimated population of 50,000 persons who are mostly Palestine Refugees.
- After the conflict in May 2021, there were a total of 75 houses in Beit Hanoun destroyed. So far UNRWA has rebuilt 62 of these houses and the families have returned to their homes. UNRWA has also repaired 1,642 houses in this village that have been damaged through conflict.
- The EU UNRWA “community greening” initiative includes school gardens, health centres and community areas across all five fields of UNRWA operation, namely Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In many areas within UNRWA operation, Palestine refugees are exposed to violence, conflict and displacement.
- Since 1971, the strategic partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has been based on the shared objective of supporting the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestinian refugees and to promoting stability in the Middle East.
- Today, the EU is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees.
- Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency's humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region.
- In 2021, the EU signed a Joint Declaration and the first multi-annual financial commitment in support of UNRWA for the period 2021-2024, marking 50 years of partnership. In the Joint Declaration, the EU commits to continue supporting UNRWA politically and in securing predictable, multi-annual financial resources to enable the Agency to fulfil its mandate and provide its essential services to Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.
UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.
UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.
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