Statement from the Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza Mr. Matthias Schmale

06 March 2020
Statement from the Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza Mr. Matthias Schmale

We are shocked at the tragic incident that took place today in Nusairat camp in Gaza, a series of explosions of gas cylinders in a bakery that took the lives of nine people and injured 54, fifteen of them in serious condition, according to the Ministry of Health. People present at the scene described the fire that erupted and spread uncontrollably as “doomsday”. UNRWA runs one health centre, three schools and a distribution centre in Nusairat, so our staff were on location when the horrific incident took place. 

The fires spread so easily and were extinguished with difficulty are a stark reminder of how vulnerable Palestine refugees are in camps that often lack basic safety standards. It is also a stark reminder of the effect of thirteen years of blockade on Gaza: the firetruck that came to the site is old and shabby, the camp infrastructure is run down and the building dilapidated.

My UNRWA colleagues and I are deeply saddened by the unnecessary loss of life and we stand in solidarity with the Palestine refugees who live in Nusairat camp. On behalf of UNRWA’s leadership, I express my deep condolences to the families who lost a loved one. We will explore over these next days how we can best support those affected through our existing services.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724