UNRWA Commissioner-General makes official visit to Syria

12 May 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl visited Syria on 11 and 12 May, meeting with Palestine refugees, UNRWA staff and government officials.

In conversations with Palestine refugees, Mr. Krähenbühl heard first-hand accounts of the pain, despair and violence endured by refugees of all ages. In the Sayyeda Zeinab neighborhood of Damascus, Palestine refugees who had survived a devastating double car-bomb attack on 21 February 2016 described their shock and profound sense of loss. The Commissioner-General met with two young girls badly injured in the attack. "In the eyes of Rana and Isra, I saw the unspeakable trauma they have endured but also their determination to prevail," said Mr Krähenbühl.

A cross-line field trip to Yalda allowed the Commissioner-General to meet with Palestine refugees from Yarmouk during distributions of food and hygiene materials, as well as medical consultations carried out by UNRWA. Many of the men, women and children present at the distribution live in Yarmouk camp itself and spoke of the ongoing extreme hardship and the many consequences of armed violence they are exposed to. "UNRWA remains determined to resume direct distributions inside Yarmouk when the conditions permit. In the meantime, it is important that we are able to continue providing the life-saving support to Palestine refugees from Yarmouk in surrounding neighborhoods," Mr. Krähenbühl emphasized.

During his visit to Damascus, the Commissioner-General met with Dr. Faisal Miqdad, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates; Omar Ghalawangi, the Deputy Prime Minister; Mrs. Rima al-Qadiri, the Minister of Social Affairs; and Mr. Ali Mustafa, Director-General of the General Administration for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR). In these meetings, Mr. Krähenbühl noted the improvements in the facilitation of humanitarian access to certain Palestine refugee communities. He called for steps to be taken to strengthen the protection of Palestine refugees and enable UNRWA to reach those most in need. He was encouraged by the indications he received that access will become possible to Khan Eshieh and Qudsaya.

In the midst of ongoing suffering faced by Palestine refugees in Syria, there are remarkable stories of hope. The Commissioner-General met with some 100 Palestinian boys and girls who had just exited Yarmouk camp to take their national exams. In his discussions with the students, he heard how essential it was to have preserved forms of access to education inside the devastated landscape of Yarmouk. In Sayyeda Zeinab, Mr. Krähenbühl visited an UNRWA school being rebuilt in what was once an embattled neighborhood of the Syrian capital. He said, "I am deeply proud of the efforts of my colleagues in Syria, who are so engaged to protect the right to education of Palestine refugee youth. I call on the world to join us in support of this formidable effort."

As steps are underway to try and resolve the wider Syria conflict, UNRWA staff in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Latakia and Dera'a are doing their utmost to provide crucial assistance and services to Palestine refugees. It is essential that their destiny, their plight, as well as their needs and expectations are not forgotten. Addressing these should be a priority for all.

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
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
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