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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
8 May 2013

Protect our children’s future by protecting UNRWA schools
8 May 2013

حافظوا على مستقبل أولادنا عبر المحافظة على مدارس الاونروا

Op-Ed by Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr

Education is the basis of human development and is particularly important for vulnerable refugee communities for whom education offers life changing opportunities. This is why UNRWA invests more than half of its budget on the education of Palestinian refugees, giving them the tools to improve their lot and aspire for a better future.

This is even more relevant to UNRWA in Lebanon where Palestinian refugees live in extremely dire conditions and are faced with multiple challenges, particularly the right to work and the right to own property. UNRWA’s 69 schools represent the only haven for Palestinian children to pursue education at all levels and enjoy recreational activities throughout the summer.    
However, this corner stone of our mandate would be under threat if some Palestinian Refugees from Syria turn them into accommodation centers as some have proposed. URNWA recognizes that there is a significant lack of accommodation that must be met to the best extent possible, but there is no easy solution considering the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis and the influx of over forty thousand Palestine refugees from Syria. Such a move would threaten the education not just of increasing numbers of refugee children from Syria, but also of more than 32,000 students of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon.
Moreover, many of the children of Palestine refugees from Syria have already missed between one and two years of their education. They have suffered enough. They should not lose anymore of their education. 
Meanwhile, UNRWA is sparing no effort to assist Palestine refugees from Syria by providing them with some cash assistance towards housing when the funds are made available. We will remain steadfast in this mission. 
At the same time, UNRWA is rehabilitating unused buildings and other premises within the camps to turn them into collective centers. UNRWA is also discussing with all Palestinian factions and leaders the possibility of establishing more temporary housing units within the camps. 
All involved should fully share the commitment and responsibility of ensuring our children’s education. To the community leaders, refugee representatives and parents I say that the future of a whole generation is at stake. Let us all join hands to safeguard the right to education to all Palestinian students in Lebanon.

Background information
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 72 million.

For more information, please contact:

Chris Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724

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