Statement of the UNRWA Commissioner-General on Occasion of the 2020 International Day of Persons with Disabilities

03 December 2020
Statement of the UNRWA Commissioner-General on Occasion of the 2020 International Day of Persons with Disabilities

To mark the 2020 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reaffirms its commitment to promote and to protect the rights and needs of Palestine refugees with disabilities. The Agency will continue to identify and remove barriers that prevent Palestine refugees from enjoying their human rights on an equal basis with others.

Recognizing that ‘disability rights are human rights’, UNRWA adopts the rights-based approach to ensure that its services are accessible to persons with disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the vulnerability of Palestine refugees with disabilities. The lessons learned from our response to the pandemic will be applied in UNRWA programming and will strive to ensure that its programmes and services are non-discriminatory of Palestine refugee women, girls, men and boys with disabilities, in line with the 2020 International Day of Persons with Disabilities theme - “Building back better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world”.

In response to the pandemic, UNRWA adopted home-delivery of food assistance and hygiene supplies, as well as telemedicine. During the year, 88,256 Palestine refugees with disabilities benefitted from UNRWA social safety net and emergency assistance. Also, the Agency supported the education of 11,475 students with disabilities through its schools. Despite the impact of the pandemic, UNRWA trained 530 frontline health staff in inclusive health services, while another 117 staff members received training in general disability inclusion.

Although UNRWA continues to operate at full capacity with inadequate resources, there is an urgent need for funds to sustain the delivery of essential services. With the Agency’s cash flow at its lowest levels since 2012, and with the needs of refugees critically high due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the protection risk for Palestine refugees with disabilities will be exacerbated if UNRWA provision of support to them is threatened. The Agency will only be able to continue to support Palestine refugees, including those with disabilities, whose needs for inclusion will continue well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, if sufficient funding is received.

UNRWA is set to ‘leave no one behind’ in ensuring an equitable post COVID-19 world.

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