UNRWA students send message of solidarity and celebrate “Japan Day” in commemoration of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake

08 May 2019
UNRWA students participate in the “Japan Day” held at Khan Younis Preparatory Boys' School “B”, southern Gaza, in solidarity with the people of Japan. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

On 14 March 2019, almost 500 Palestine refugee students from four UNRWA schools in Khan Younis celebrated “Japan Day” and sent messages of continued empathy and solidarity to the people of Japan in commemoration of the eighth anniversary of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to hit the country. The “Japan Day” was held at the Khan Younis Preparatory Boys' School “B” in southern Gaza, and was attended by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale as well as other UNRWA senior staff.

The event included speeches by the Director of UNRWA Operation, a message from the Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs and Representative of Japan to Palestine, Mr. Takeshi Okubo, and speech on behalf of UNRWA students in addition to kite-flying and several performances by students such as gymnastic and Palestinian Dabka. A live stream was created to also connect Japanese students from Kamaishi, Hiroshima and Tokyo who flew kites in Japan earlier this month. A video clip of the kite-flying event in Japan was shown to UNRWA students in Gaza, and an exhibition featured photos of all the previous annual kite-flying events since 2012 as well as the restoration of Kamaishi City after 2011 tsunami.

“Today’s event shows once again the close relationship that UNRWA in Gaza has with Japan. Japan has for many years supported UNRWA programmes for Palestine refugees in Gaza, even at a time when the country is still recovering from the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunami. This includes, for example, funding provided to UNRWA to allow Palestine refugees in Khan Younis to reconstruct their homes that were destroyed during the 2014 hostilities,” said UNRWA Director Matthias Schmale.

“I believe that today’s event should be a symbolic show of “kizuna” - the Japanese word for solidarity and empathy - with the pain suffered by the Japanese people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in Japan in 2011. Flying kites of hope, here in this UNRWA facility, will raise hope not only in the hearts of Japanese people but also in Palestinian children that someday they will enjoy their freedom,” said Miki Yoshida on behalf of Ambassador Takeshi Okubo.

UNRWA remains grateful to Japan for their on-going support to the people in Gaza and for the close relationship they share, especially in times when UNRWA’s and the refugees’ future looks uncertain. Japan has been supporting Palestinian refugees through UNRWA since 1953. The government of Japan has just announced the contribution of about US$ 30 million to UNRWA this year. The enduring support from Japan will enable the Agency to provide vital services to Palestine refugees across the Middle East, even in the face of its continuing financial challenges.

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
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724