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UNRWA Commissioner-General visits Lebanon amidst deteriorating living conditions of Palestine Refugees
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Mr. Phillippe Lazzarini, just ended a three-day visit in Lebanon where he met with UNRWA staff and refugees in Burj Barajneh camp in Beirut.
Lazzarini’s visit comes amid an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that is plunging the country deep into poverty. These events have a profound impacts on Palestine refugees who are among the poorest segment of the society. For decades they have faced restrictions on access to the labour market and property ownership.
“Refugees I met are utterly desperate and struggle to cover their basic needs,” said Lazzarini. “I met young graduates whose only hope for a better future is to emigrate. They know the prices of each migration route. I met parents who have nightmares about how they will afford to buy milk and diapers for their children the next day. The social fabric within the community is imploding, divorces are on the rise, as is gender-based violence. UNRWA staff are also encountering anger and resentment.” Today, I am raising the alarm and calling on the international community to ensure adequate support for UNRWA to ensure that those refugees continue receiving much needed assistance and have a dignified life,” he continued.
At the UNRWA Yarmouk School in the camp, Lazzarini met with representatives of the school parliament, the school parents’ association and school staff. All talked about the difficult conditions and challenges children face to continue their education. Many are dropping out of schools as they cannot afford transportation or have to help their families make a living.
In January, UNRWA will launch an emergency appeal for Lebanon to alleviate the humanitarian impact of the situation in Lebanon on Palestine refugees. Cash assistance will remain a priority.
Lazzarini’s visit also included meetings with Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Director of General Security and the Chair of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee, the Palestinian Ambassador and representatives of Palestinian factions. He also met with NGOs working in the refugee camps. All shared the concern about the deteriorating situation in the camps and committed to support the Agency to sustain all services and alleviate the human suffering in the camps.
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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