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UNICEF, UNRWA condemn bombing of child friendly space in Khan Eishieh camp in Syria
The latest attack on Khan Eishieh Refugee Camp, home to Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Syrians, is the latest example in the Syria conflict of the inhumane disregard for life, particularly that of children and infrastructure on which they depend.
In one of the latest such attacks, a barrage of bombs hit the Khan Eishieh camp at night on 3 July reportedly killing civilians and destroying homes as well as a child friendly space. Khan Eshieh camp, home to about 9,000 Palestine refugees is located in a volatile area in the rural area south of Damascus, where spikes in violence have caused the deaths of at least nine Palestine refugees in recent weeks.
The destroyed child friendly space was a point of respite for over 1,000 children who were coming to it daily to engage in education, psychosocial and recreational activities. This was the only child friendly space in the camp where children could go to momentarily overcome the horrors of the violence and the conflict that have defined their lives. Despite the risks, local partners and volunteers continue to serve children in the best way they can.
The work of UNRWA and other partners is impeded by the fact that since 2013, humanitarian access to Khan Eshieh has been restricted. To receive assistance, Palestine refugees must travel at great personal risk outside the camp to UNRWA distribution centers in Sahnaya or Khan Dunoun.
Since 2012, the farms and fields surrounding the camp have been active battlegrounds in which heavy weapons have been deployed with often indiscriminate impact. Some 75 UNRWA staff residing in the camp strive to maintain support to Palestine refugees through limited services offered in three schools, a health clinic, and a community centre.
Across Syria, UNICEF, UNRWA and partners continue to support child protection services, including through child friendly spaces, to help children cope with the violence.
Nothing justifies attacks on children and civilian facilities on which they depend. Unfortunately this has become a common feature of the conflict in Syria.
UNICEF and UNRWA condemn this attack and call on those responsible to cease actions that endanger civilian life and civilian infrastructure in Syria. Such attacks are prohibited under International Humanitarian Law.
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.
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