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UNRWA reviews and sets priorities for disability inclusion work
According to the World Health Organization 15 percent of people are living with a disability. Some 795,000 Palestine refugees with a disability are registered with UNRWA. Protracted displacement facing Palestine refugees exacerbates the vulnerability and potential exclusion of persons with disabilities from basic services due to economic hardship. Building on many years of experience providing services to persons with disabilities, UNRWA recently brought together its fields offices and programmes to review its work in this area and set priorities for the future to promote accessible and inclusive services.
In particular, to further solidify its disability inclusion work, UNRWA held a workshop on 27 and 28 June to take stock of progress made thus far, as well as to identify practical actions for the next phase of disability inclusion programming. Palestine refugees with disabilities who benefit from UNRWA services as well as two UNRWA staff who have disabilities themselves attended the workshop to provide a personal perspective of the challenges they face and how they cope with adversity. Ashraf Baqi, a boxing champion who has Down Syndrome, and Tahani Rabi’eh, a professor at the Queen Noor School in Al Wihdat who lives with a visual impairment, shared their inspiring stories about the impact of the Agency in their lives. Mohammed Saleh and Amneh Saqer, who work with UNRWA in Syria, spoke about their experiences during the Syrian conflict and provided recommendations on how to ensure more inclusive services. The workshop will pave the way for the Agency’s disability inclusion work to be carried out in the next year. Further, priorities for each programme were agreed upon, including cross-cutting issues such as data, participation, training, and advocacy.
The event built on the 2017 launch of UNRWA Disability Inclusion Guidelines [ click ] implemented to build capacity and awareness of Agency staff on disability inclusion. More than 200 UNRWA staff have been trained in how to use the guidelines. All UNRWA programmes contribute to disability inclusion through different activities such as: specialized services to persons with disabilities, early identification of disabilities and accessibility in UNRWA facilities. For example, the education programme has been working to promote an inclusive education system where each and every student’s potential for learning, and their different learning needs, are recognised. In Gaza, a teacher from one of UNRWA schools has started producing high quality accessible desks and chairs for students with disabilities using recycled materials.
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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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