“Community greening” initiative: UNRWA and the European Union open first school garden in the West Bank

10 November 2022
UNRWA students at Beit Anan Girls School, northwest of Jerusalem, enjoy their new school garden funded by the EU. © 2022 UNRWA Photo by Louise Wateridge

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EAST JERUSALEM, 10 November 2022 - Today, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) opened a school garden at the UNRWA Beit Anan Girls’ School in the village of Beit Anan, northwest of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. Along with the children of UNRWA Beit Anan Girl’s School, the ceremony brought together the EU Head of Cooperation, Mr. Ibrahim Laafia, Director of UNRWA Affairs in the West Bank, Mr. Adam Bouloukos and Chief of the UNRWA Education Programme in the West Bank, Mr. Muawiya Amar.

“I like the sunshade area.  I feel so proud that my school is growing and evolving and that our efforts in the garden will remain for the next generation,” said Nassim, 13,  a student from Beit Anan Girl’s School. “The sight of the trees and flowers make us feel positive and enthusiastic to learn,” she added.

Today’s garden opening launches the EU UNRWA “community greening” initiative which aims to transform outdoor spaces in several UNRWA installations. The project is designed to foster inclusion and create spaces for the Palestine refugee community to gather. The initiative will produce, restore and preserve green spaces, while simultaneously encouraging environmental awareness, nutritional education and relaxation, encourage recycling, increase physical and outdoor activity, stimulate social interaction and beautify neighbourhoods.

The Director of UNRWA Affairs in the West Bank, Mr. Adam Bouloukos, who thanked the generous and unceasing EU support to UNRWA, said: “This greening initiative is hugely important, not only to protect and restore green spaces, but to encourage the children to recognize themselves as stewards of their environment. It amplifies feelings of  responsibility and builds a greater sense of community. The garden at Beit Anan is the result of great efforts from the local community, students and teachers who have planted, painted walls and transformed the once desolate space into a safe and enjoyable space to learn and play,” he added.

Rama, a ninth-grade student at Beit Anan Girl’s school said at the event “The new vegetable garden helps us to plant different vegetables by ourselves. This garden is a long-lasting project that is not limited to a certain period of time. Some of us are experiencing growing fruit and vegetables for the first time because we don’t have land to grow whatever we want. We feel comfortable and motivated here.”

“Education plays a crucial role in shaping the future. This future is facing major challenges due to the climate change that affects each and every part of our world. Initiatives such as the community greening initiative are important as they represent a proactive effort by the students and their teachers to raise environmental awareness among their communities. This is in line with the EU’s commitment of encouraging the education sector to take actions to promote greener societies and a neutral carbon Europe by 2050. A commitment that the EU makes clear in the ongoing COP27 discussions,’’ said the EU Head of Cooperation Ibrahim Laafia. 

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Notes to Editors:

Over 50 per cent of the population of Beit Anan are UNRWA registered refugees and the UNRWA Girl’s School, founded in 1956, serves both the refugee and non-refugee population of Beit Anan and surrounding villages.

Beit 'Anan is located in the “Biddu Enclave”, a cluster of eight Palestinian villages in the West Bank surrounded to the south, east and west by the West Bank Barrier. The Barrier hinders access to the rest of the occupied West Bank, as well as Jerusalem, to which the village has traditionally been closely economically, socially, and culturally tied.

Entry is prohibited to all except permit holders. In addition to severely restricted mobility, these Palestinian communities have lost access to a significant portion of their land and livelihoods.

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 and Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In many areas within UNRWA operation, Palestine refugees are exposed to violence, conflict and displacement and so far, 2022 is the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank, on a monthly average since the United Nations started counting fatalities systematically in 2005.

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 facilities have become a symbol of safety and peace for Palestine refugees; therefore the EU and UNRWA are determined to jointly contribute to these stable and secure spaces where they can gather as a community. For more than 50 years, the EU has established itself as a key strategic partner for the Agency, supporting UNRWA in its efforts to help Palestine refugees achieve their full potential despite their difficult circumstances. The partnership between the EU and UNRWA has evolved over time, with the EU and its Member States becoming the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees.

Background Information: 

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.

For more information, please contact:

Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+962 (0)79 090 0140
Juliette Touma
UNRWA Director of Communications
Mobile: 
+972 54240 2753
Office: 
+962-79-867-4628