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Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy visits Baqa’a Palestine Refugee Camp in Jordan
The Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy H.E. Ms. Meryame Kitir visited the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) installations in Baqa’a camp. H.E. Kitir was accompanied by the Ambassador of Belgium to Jordan H.E Mr. Filip Vanden Bulcke, Chief of Staff of the Minister Ms. Anke van Lancker, the Diplomatic Advisor of the Minister Mr. Bart De Wolf, Director and Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Jordan, Ms. Marta Lorenzo and UNRWA staff.
While at the UNRWA Camp Improvement Committee office, H.E. Ms. Kitir was briefed on progress made by the government-led equitable COVID-19 vaccination campaign currently being implemented in three UNRWA health centres, including Baqa’a, Zarqa and Irbid.
During the visit at the UNRWA Baqa’a Girls’ School, the delegation was briefed about the state of the Palestine refugee population in Jordan and recent developments in UNRWA operations across the Middle East. Special attention was paid to the vulnerabilities faced by ex-Gazan refugees and Palestine refugees from Syria. In addition, the Agency’s adaptation of operations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the Agency’s priorities to better address the needs of Palestine refugees, were highlighted - with a focus on the Education in Emergencies (EiE) programme which UNRWA adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that Palestine refugee children can continue benefit from their right to quality, safe and inclusive education amidst crisis and conflict. The Kingdom of Belgium has offered vital support to the UNRWA EiE Programme since 2016.
At the UNRWA Baqa’a Health Centre, the delegation had the opportunity to witness firsthand the UNRWA response to COVID-19 and was briefed on how the Agency’s Health Programme ensures service continuity and abides by protective measures through investing in digitization. This includes smart phone applications and telemedicine services to ensure that refugees receive quality health care safely, avoiding gatherings and overcrowding.
“I am very impressed by what the many staff members of UNRWA manage to achieve here every day. They have done a great deal to enable young people to continue to benefit from education despite the coronavirus. With their efforts to vaccinate people inside the camp, they make a huge difference in the fight against this pandemic,” said Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir.
Ms. Marta Lorenzo, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Jordan, remarked: "We were delighted to have H.E. Ms. Meryame Kitir visit Baqa’a Camp today. The Kingdom of Belgium has always been a strong supporter to the Agency by contributing to the education, health and social services to help empower Palestine refugees and advocate for their wellbeing and dignity."
At the end of her visit to Baqa’a camp, H.E Ms. Meryame Kitir met UNRWA Commissioner-General Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, who thanked her for Belgium’s strong commitment and support to UNRWA operations. The two sides discussed ways to further enhance the cooperation between Belgium and UNRWA, and strategies to ensure effective continued support to provide vital health, education, and relief services to Palestine refugees.
Belgium is amongst the Agency’s most reliable and committed partners, supporting the Agency for decades - including as a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission since 1953. In 2020, Belgium was the Agency’s 17th largest donor, contributing EUR 11.25 million (including EUR 6.25 million to the UNRWA Program Budget, EUR 2.3 million to the Syria Regional Emergency Appeal and EUR 2.7 million for projects).
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 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. Thousands of Palestine refugees who lost both their homes and livelihood because of the 1948 conflict have remained displaced and in need of significant support for over seventy years. UNRWA helps them 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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