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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
24 January 2008

Refugee Stories

UNRWA / Bank Audi project provides better living Conditions for Palestine refugees in Husseinieh

"The kitchen is the most important room for a woman," says Nawal Mohammad al-Khattib, a widow with five children. She is one of the 110 Palestinian refugees renovating her house with help from a shelter rehabilitation project sponsored by Bank Audi. Mrs. Khattib claims that she has always been too embarrassed of her house, which did not have a kitchen or an indoor bathroom, to invite in guests. With a new parlor, kitchen, toilet, and a new coat of paint, she thinks that will change.

In October, Bank Audi donated US$25,000 for the rehabilitation of ten shelters in Husseinieh, a Palestine refugee community outside Damascus. Originally established to accommodate 2000 individuals, the population of this three square kilometer area has now grown to more than 22,000 Palestinian refugees. Many of the residents came here from the suburb of Jaramana, after their homes were demolished to make way for Damascus’ beautification projects. This overpopulation means that many families live in substandard and dilapidated housing.

In some cases, such as that of Um Hekmat, one room serves as bedroom, kitchen and living room. For Um Hekmat, the house in Husseinieh is the 5th she has lived in. She has been forced to leave four previous homes, the first being in 1948 when she fled Palestine. Since then, she has been moved around various neighborhoods and refugee camps in Syria. Two years ago, she was evicted from her home in Khan Dannoun camp because the land was zoned for agriculture. She used the sum she was given in compensation and went into debt to build a one-room structure, without windows or doors, which she lives in with her husband in Husseinieh.

"The wind would blow in the dust," she sighed, "My husband was sick and it was very cold." Like all the individuals who benefited from the UNRWA-Bank Audi project, Um Hekmet receives assistance from UNRWA’s special hardship case programme, which provides assistance to refugees without breadwinners, in the form of food aid, cash assistance, and help with shelter repairs.

"Shelter rehabilitation has been a high priority for UNRWA although we feel that the best situation for Palestine refugees is to return to their homeland," said Panos Moumtzis, Director of URNWA Affairs, Syria. "We are grateful to Bank Audi and feel proud of our partnership. Their donation will make a difference in the lives of Palestine refugees."

A visit to the site of Um Hekmet’s one-room shelter now finds a spotlessly clean, 3-room house. She claims that she did all the work to improve it herself. "I bought the tile, I supervised the workers; all of it is my work."

Bank Audi is a financial group that offers a broad range of commercial and retail products and services. Bank Audi, Syria Deputy Chairman and General Manager, Bassel Hamwi said: "Active civic role in society is one of Bank Audi’s main values, and the Bank focuses on participating every year in charitable activities. We at Bank Audi are proud to announce our donation programme for this year with UNRWA."

January 2008

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