UNRWA and national partners mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

08 December 2015

On 3 December, the UNRWA disability programme, a part of the Agency’s relief and social services programme, and the Disability Steering Committee organized an event to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministries of Education and Social Affairs, as well as other national partners.

The celebration in al-Bireh was attended by the Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, Felipe Sanchez, and the Minister of Education, Dr. Sabri Saidam, along with representatives from the Ministries of Transportation and Social Affairs, as well as national organizations working in the field of disability.

The event included several speeches; a documentary screening; Dabka performances; folklore group songs; and the honouring of persons with disabilities, their families and supporters. The theme for this year was: ‘Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities’.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Sanchez said, “Inclusion matters. Unfortunately, all too often persons with disabilities, including Palestine refugees, are prevented from fully participating in key aspects of society."

Mr. Sanchez added: “UNRWA has taken several initiatives to strengthen the role of persons with disabilities in society. Through our programmes we work to promote, rehabilitate and equalize opportunities for persons with disabilities and increase their inclusion and full participation in the community.”

Dr. Saidam emphasized that the word disability should be removed from the Palestinian dictionary, saying: “We will together continue creating hope and Palestinian people will not be defeated. Our moral duty stemming from independence convention and all other conventions is to support this group, and those conventions also state that marginalizing human beings should be overcome.” The General Director of the Disability Department in the Ministry of Social Affairs, Ameen I’Nab, reiterated that PwDs should play their equal role in the economic, social and political spheres of society and that it is necessary to empower them. The ceremony also included speeches and presentations from the Ministry of Transportation and the Independent Commission for Human Rights.

The Agency’s work with persons with disabilities emphasizes a multisectoral approach through the strengthening of systematic process for coordination between Agency programmes internally, as well as with local partners and ministries.

The UNRWA disability programme has been operational for about 25 years, partnering with more than 15 local committees for rehabilitation located in West Bank refugee camps.

So far this year, the UNRWA West Bank Field Office has assisted more than 2,553 persons with disabilities and their families by rehabilitating their homes, providing them with aid tools and vocational training, and transferring them to specialized institutions.

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:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724