Statement by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl on Occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities

03 December 2017

At its heart, UNRWA’s mission is to preserve the dignity and rights of Palestine refugees, amidst the difficult conditions they so often face.  We remain utterly committed to our responsibilities, and when considering the extreme insecurity and conflict that refugees are now exposed to, our work is as critical as ever.

For refugees in need of our assistance and protection, we must do all we can to meet their needs.  Among them are refugees with disabilities, an important community representing 15% of those we serve, and one that gives strength and resilience to the broader community of Palestine refugees.

UNRWA and all its partners are working hard to ensure refugees with disabilities can exercise the rights we all share, including freedom from discrimination, and can pursue opportunities that are crucial to their development and the development of the broader Palestine refugee community.

As a direct provider of services, UNRWA’s accountability runs deep for refugees with disabilities. With access to services a core need for members of the community, we are making important headway in our education, health and social assistance programmes, including through specialized education materials, and rehabilitative services.  We are integrating these approaches in all our fields.

We honestly recognize that a lot more needs to be done.  From fuller accessibility to all our facilities, to vocational training that takes into account the special skills of persons with disabilities, UNRWA must further improve its response.

We take this opportunity to pay tribute to UNRWA colleagues who have worked to translate our commitments to disability inclusion into concrete initiatives and action. These efforts, and the ones we will continue to make, help us fulfil the promise of “leaving no one behind”.

On 3 December, the international day of persons with disabilities, we call on all of us, including every member of the Palestine refugee community, to do their part to engage more with the community of disabled refugees, and make good on the responsibilities we have to meet their needs more effectively.  We are determined to see UNRWAto continue taking disability inclusion forward.  Above all, so lives of dignity can be preserved for all. 

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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank 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:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
Help send a Palestine refugee child to school