8 June 2009 – The United Nations envoy tasked with promoting sport for development visited Gaza today to explore ways to improve the daily lives of children and youth.
Wilfried Lemke, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, was able to enter the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing, which was closed yesterday.
“I am deeply touched by the plight of the people of Gaza,” Mr. Lemke said after meeting young Palestinian athletes at a sports stadium in Gaza City.
“Sport and play can provide the children and youth in Gaza relief from the hardship of their daily lives and bring them hope for a better tomorrow,” he added.
The Special Adviser also stopped at several locations that will host the upcoming 2009 Gaza Summer Games, organized by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which will kick off on 21 June.
The success of UNRWA and its partners in organizing the event is a testament “to their remarkable commitment and dedication,” he said, adding that “not only are the Games a source of joy and fun for the children, but they also contain a crucial income-generating component that makes a considerable difference in the current alarming lack of professional opportunities for the people of Gaza.”
Over 250,000 children will take part in a series of activities during the eight-week Games in hundreds of different locations across the Strip.
Last Friday, Mr. Lemke met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the two men discussed the positive and lasting benefits of sport for local populations.
Tomorrow, he will hold talks with UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd in Amman Jordan, where he will also visit a youth training camp, wrapping up a 10-day visit to the region which also took him to Qatar and Bahrain.