UNRWA Restores its Services in Sbeineh Camp
On 15 October, UNRWA reopened two out of its six schools in Sbeineh camp, south Damascus, for the first time since December 2012. Some 500 students from grade 1 to grade 9 returned to their classrooms after a four-year-closure due to the security situation in the camp. The Salhiyeh Boys’ and Safouriyeh Girls’ schools underwent rapid maintenance and repair works to welcome Palestine refugee students for the 2017-2018 school year. UNRWA continues to work to re-open its services as needed in the camp.
In 2013, the camp was a scene of armed clashes, until the Government of Syria armed forces regained control of the town of Sbeineh. The fighting caused damages to homes and infrastructure in the camp. On 7 October 2013, the camp was vacated by its residents when fighting intensified and remained closed to civilians since then. Sbeineh camp, located in Sbeineh town, 14 km south of Damascus, was home to about 25,000 Palestine refugees before the beginning of the war in Syria and civilians were officially permitted to re-enter the camp on 30 August 2017. It is estimated that 2500 Palestine refugee families have so far entered the camp. It is expected that an additional 1000 families will return to the camp in the coming months.
In cooperation with the Syrian government and the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees, UNRWA staff are undertaking large-scale maintenance and reconstruction efforts, including the removal of rubble and restoring electricity, sanitation and water networks to the refugees. UNRWA has been providing water through water trucking to returnees since 10 September 2017 and will continue to do so until the water network will be operable. UNRWA also deployed its mobile health clinic until the maintenance work of its health centre in the camp is completed. The clinic will serve the health needs of the returning refugees.
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.
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