UNRWA Celebrates National Day for Persons with Learning Disabilities in Lebanon with the Support of the European Union

30 April 2018
Children with learning difficulties celebrating the National Day for Persons with Learning Disabilities funded by the European Union  © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Rabie Akel

Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) celebrated the National Day for Persons with Learning Disabilities at the UNRWA Yarmouk School in Beirut, Lebanon.

The event, supported by the European Union as part of a new EUR 5 million educational project, was attended by the Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Gwyn Lewis, and engaged some 180 students with learning disabilities, from grades 1-2 from UNRWA Yarmouk and Bireh schools.

Inclusive education is at the heart of the UNRWA education reform, which aims to address the needs of all children, to foster their growth and realise their potential, regardless of their socio-economic status, gender, intellectual, physical and psychosocial strengths or challenges.

UNRWA encourages continuous identification of needs and provision of support, particularly in the primary years of schooling. It is critical that any learning, psychosocial and health needs of children are identified early on and that support is provided to prevent difficulties from compounding.

Many children with disabilities and their families face complex protection issues crossing into both the medical and social aspects of their lives. These issues require timely and comprehensive assessment, coordinated direct support and referral to multiple agencies. In general, the access of Palestine refugees with disability and learning disorders to specialized support services is limited in Lebanon and there is a visible gap between demand and supply of services. A number of challenges aggravate their marginalization in society, including limited access to and availability of specialized rehabilitation and therapy services in the country, inadequate awareness of needs, and insufficient protection of their rights.

The EU is supporting UNRWA to enhance the quality of education and sustaining education reform. This is improving the quality of education in UNRWA schools benefiting around 37,000 children. Inclusive and special education is one of the areas of focus of its support. The EU is encouraging a multifaceted response through support to different actors including UNRWA, NGOs and at the community level.

The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone, thanked the EU for their continuous political and financial support. He said: “This is an opportunity for UNRWA to renew our thanks to the EU for their critical contribution of EUR 82 million to the Agency’s programme budget for 2018, specifically for advancing such a contribution at a time when UNRWA faces the deepest financial crisis in its history. In Lebanon, the EU is the main donor to UNRWA’s Education Programme.”

In addition to the contribution to the UNRWA programme budget the European Union supports UNRWA Lebanon operation, including in the education sector across projects.   

EU and UNRWA: Together for Palestine Refugees

Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

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
Huda Samra
Communications Advisor – Lebanon (Arabic and Francophone)
+961 81 666 134
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
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