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UN Secretary-General Guterres to Palestine Refugees in Lebanon: Do Not Lose Hope
Yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited the Lydda Co-Ed School of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Tripoli, accompanied by a senior UN delegation. The Lebanese Minister of the Interior, Bassam Mawlawi, was also present.
Mr. Guterres met with student members of the School Parliament, as well as parents and a teacher, hearing about their concerns and aspirations. Among the students, Wasim spoke about the increase in transport costs due to the economic crisis which prevent parents from sending their children to school. Jamal, a Palestinian Refugee from Syria, described how his father does not have money for rent, clothes and food, and how he often goes to sleep on an empty stomach. Students are eager to learn and have a future: Zeina spoke about the importance of education and her dream to get a scholarship to study astronomy abroad.
The Secretary-General also heard from Ahmad, a parent, about the general living conditions of Palestine refugees in Lebanon, the restrictions of their rights and the need to ensure that UNRWA is able to maintain its vital services, especially education and health. He heard from teacher Iman how students are often distracted in class because of their difficult living conditions at home and how they lack modern equipment, such as computer labs.
Mr. Guterres expressed his solidarity with the Palestine refugees. He apologized for the inability to secure all the necessary support for students and parents and stressed his determination to raise the necessary funding for UNRWA to continue providing its services. He also promised to continue to work for a peace process which would result in a two-state solution and which would end the plight of the refugees. Mr. Guterres’ concluding message to everyone was on the importance of not losing hope.
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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