UNRWA Internal Murals: Adding Colours to Life in Gaza

13 April 2017
Artist Israa’ Musallam, 28 years old, is drawing on the walls of the UNRWA Gaza Field Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj

To spread positive messages, and add more colour to life among students and staff in Gaza, over the past six months approximately 190 young Palestinian artists have painted the internal walls of 70 UNRWA installations across Gaza. This has included newly-constructed UNRWA schools and the Gaza Field Office. The mural-drawing activity is an extension of the murals project which was implemented under the facilitation of the UNRWA Operations Support Office in Febraury 2016.

“Through the colours of these paintings, we are trying to inspire and spread hope to everyone who sees the murals; sometimes little things and colourful art can make a difference in the lives of people,” commented Dr Yousef Mousa, Special Advisor to the Director of UNRWA Operations, Gaza, and facilitator of the internal-mural-painting project.

The mural activity also contributes to mitigating the dire economic situation in Gaza through providing short-term job opportunities. All the artists are hired through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme, which provides short-term employment opportunities for youth.

The murals covered a variety of topics including natural landscapes, and UNRWA services such as stories of camp improvement, education, health, relief services and summer fun weeks.

Asia Harb is a 26 year old artist participating in the mural activity. “This is my first experience in painting murals. I find it an amusing insightful one where we transform the blank walls into colourful pictures. With these murals, there are positive messages calling for hope, imagination and creativity. I’m lucky enough to have had this creative job opportunity especially in light of the hard economic situation in Gaza Strip,” commented Asia.

This activity follows the second phase of the mural project which started in June 2016 where 140 artists from across the Gaza Strip participated in colouring and beautifying 270 UNRWA installations. The mural activity was a joint project between the Maintenance Division of the UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) and the Education Programme in Gaza. This all serves to work towards global Sustainable Development Goal number four, which calls for fostering innovation and promoting economic development.

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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank 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.