UNRWA at the World Humanitarian Summit

World Humanitarian Summit landing page banner. © 2016 UNRWA


On 23/24 May, UNRWA will attend the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and join the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for “One Humanity” and “Shared Responsibility" and to implement the accompanying "Agenda for Humanity", to improve the functioning, efficiency and effectiveness of the world humanitarian system to better provide services and goods to people in need. With our long history of working side by side with the Palestinians in the world’s most turbulent region, UNRWA has made and will continue to make a unique contribution, particularly in the way we deliver both human development services – health, education and social services - and emergency humanitarian assistance to palestine refugees.

Recognizing that education is fundamental to helping each and every child achieve their full potential, UNRWA has worked for over 60 years to ensure that Palestine refugee children have access to quality education including in sitautions of emergencies and conflict environments. Since its operations began, UNRWA has educated three generations of refguees, or more than four million refugee children. Currently, UNRWA provides free basic education to over 500,000 Palestine refugee children and youth in 692 schools, 8 vocational training centres and 2 educational science faculties across the Agency’s five fields of operations. UNRWA has made a substantial and unique contribution to the human development of Palestine refugees and has earned a reputation for both innovation in its approach and its commitment to education.


Half of UNRWA schools affected by conflict in the last five years: UNRWA showcases its innovative ‘Education in Emergencies’ response

UNRWA School in Husseinieh, February 2015. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad

Of the many tragedies occurring in the Middle East, the story of embattled schools may be one of the least well known. Front lines shift and run through school grounds, artillery rounds hit installations, incursions by armed forces or groups occur, and access is prevented or rendered impossible for young boys and girls, for whom education is a critical life-line.

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Schools on the front line: The impact of armed conflict and violence on UNRWA schools and education services

© 2015 UNRWA

UNRWA operates 692 elementary and preparatory schools in the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as eight secondary schools in Lebanon, providing free basic education for around half a million Palestine refugee children. Yet many UNRWA schools are on the front line of armed conflict and violence, which has endangered the lives of Palestine refugee children and posed serious challenges to providing for their education.

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Delivering education on the front line: A timeline of UNRWA and education

Education in emergencies in tents, Jordan. Undated. © UNRWA Archive, Photographer Unknown

For nearly seven decades, UNRWA has been delivering education services to Palestine refugee children in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank, in order to ensure that they are able to access a quality education and gain the skills and knowledge they need for the future. 

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Education in Emergencies

Through its Education in Emergencies (EiE) programme, UNRWA has been actively working to ensure access to quality education for Palestine Refugees affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, both for children in Syria and for those who have fled to neighboring countries, particularly Lebanon and Jordan. In the Gaza Strip, where 500 children were killed and 3,000 injured during the 2014 conflict with Israel, restoring a sense of normalcy for children has been a top priority for our education team.

The Agency’s Education in Emergencies response includes the provision of psychosocial support, survival skills and alternative learning modalities. Through its Online Interactive Learning Programme, UNRWA provides interactive learning and educational games focusing on literacy and numeracy for students from Syria and the Gaza Strip. The innovative UNRWA Satellite TV Channel has proved to be an indispensable EiE tool for children from both Syria and Gaza. The channel broadcasts lessons covering the core subjects of English, Maths, Arabic and Science for Grades 4-9, and a programme designed to raise awareness of and mitigate risks associated with unexploded ordnance in both the Gaza Strip and Syria.

Education in Emergencies (EiE) in Syria. © 2016 UNRWA

Learn more about our Syria Education in Emergencies Response


Sadeel Nasser is a Palestine refugee student at the UNRWA Jalazone Girls School in the West Bank. She talks about the psychological impact on the students of the tensions between the school and a nearby Israeli settlement which often results in nighttime invasions of the camp by the Israeli security forces (ISF). Sadeel explains about the role the school plays as a safe space where the girls can freely express themselves and even receive counseling. 


Abdul Rahman and his family, originally Palestine refugees from Yarmouk camp, moved from collective shelter to collective shelter before they found shelter in the UNRWA Damascus Training Centre. He talks about his struggles to keep up with his studies and the alternative schools and safe learning spaces provided by UNRWA that have helped him continue his education even within the context of protracted conflict and repeated displacement. 


Aya Kassem is a young Palestine refugee in Syria who had her leg amputated three years ago after a mortar exploded nearby as she was walking home from kindergarten in Jaramana, Damascus. She underwent a number of operations and has had to learn to walk again with an artificial leg provided by UNRWA. Watch Aya prepare to go to school as she recalls the incident that changed her life forever.


This short film follows Waed, a Palestine refugee, as he makes his way through a number of Israeli military checkpoints in Hebron before arriving at the UNRWA Basic Boys School. In the West Bank, UNRWA operates 96 schools reaching almost 50,000 students, many of whom are exposed to significant challenges in a context marked by military operations, settler violence, and delays at checkpoints, for example.


This 360 degree virtual reality clip immerses you in the world of Mohammed Al Kafarna, a Palestine refugee and ninth-grade student at the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Boys Prep school, as he walks home from school through the Gaza’s scarred landscape.


UNRWA has been providing education services to Palestine refugees since it started operations on the ground in 1950, including in times of emergency, achieving gender parity in the 1960’s. Today, Palestine refugee students are among the most highly educated in the region. This short film features archival footage of some of the earliest schools in 1950 and following the second flight of 1967.


Abdul Hamid, 50, was born in Neirab Camp after his family fled from Tiberias to Syria in 1948 where they were registered as Palestine refugees with UNRWA. He, his wife Amal, their daughter Asmaa and their granddaughter Nesma talk about the education support provided to their family by UNRWA over the past six decades and the important role education plays in their lives.


The UNRWA Agency-wide EiE approach was developed with generous contributions from the UNESCO, Educate a Child and the European Union

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