Islamic Relief USA Supports Vulnerable Palestine Refugee Children in Gaza

28 June 2019

In an atmosphere of ongoing hardship, thousands of vulnerable children living in the Gaza Strip are receiving a much-needed helping hand thanks to a generous donation from Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA).

The contribution of US$ 2,670,000 will enable the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to implement the fourth phase of the “Support to Vulnerable Children” project, by complimenting and building on the previous three phases. The project aims to extend support to approximately 2,500 orphans and 700 children with disabilities through cash and in-kind assistance, capacity-building and psychosocial support that will help the targeted beneficiaries fulfil their basic needs and wellbeing requirements.

After 13 years of blockade, frequent power shortages and unreliable access to safe drinking water, refugees in Gaza face a life riddled with challenges. Unemployment among refugees stands at 52 per cent, among the highest worldwide according to the latest statistics from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Limited job access leaves 68 per cent of households in Gaza experiencing severe or moderate levels of food insecurity. The IRUSA cash assistance enables Gaza refugees to purchase food and non-food items, providing crucial support to families living in poverty.

 “Poverty levels among Palestine refugees continue to rise. They rely on UNRWA to meet essential food needs and health care requirements,” Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, said. “For their sake and the stability of Gaza, we must ensure that our food distributions to more than one million people do not face any interruption.”

Beneficiaries of the last phase agree the support from IRUSA has been invaluable. Intisar al-Kafarnah, the mother of a visually impaired child, said the organization’s assistance, which included financial aid for her daughter’s educational needs and psychosocial support for her and thousands of other parents, helped enhance her coping mechanisms.

“Our financial situation worsened further after my husband had an accident in the beginning of 2017 and became incapable of movement,” she told UNRWA staff. “The sponsorship is covering some of the daily life necessities. After attending the sessions, I became more able to manage things and I do not cry as much as I used to because of the life challenges.”

The psychosocial support sessions offered through the IRUSA project as well as in UNRWA schools provide a crucial mental health assistance to refugees struggling with increasing economic hardship and trauma from intermittent cycles of violence. Since the launch of the Great March of Return demonstrations in March 2018, more than 28,000 Palestinians were injured, and hundreds killed. Tensions caused by the demonstrations placed an increased burden on Gaza families.

Despite the Agency’s financial shortfall, UNRWA has managed to sustain its vital services, such as the mental health and psychosocial support programme for the most vulnerable in Gaza. In 2019, while mental health programs especially in regions coping with intermittent hostilities remain a priority, the Agency’s ability to deliver most of these programs will depend on availability of funds. UNRWA thanks IRUSA for its continuous support to Palestine refugees.

IRUSA was launched in 1993 and today spans the United States, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Its programmes, aimed at alleviating world poverty, range from children and orphans to women’s initiatives, food aid, livelihood, education and health.

For 70 years, UNRWA has delivered effective and reliable humanitarian support to Palestine refugees. The Agency’s services include free health care and education, food and cash assistance and microcredit loans to 5.5 million Palestine refugees facing extreme hardship in Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank.

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 5.4 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:

Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
+962 (0)79 090 0140