449 NEW DWELLING UNITS FOR GAZA’S REFUGEES
03 June 2015
As part of its regular commitment to serving Palestine refugees in Gaza, UNRWA is in the process of allocating the newly built 449 housing units in the Khan Younis Rehousing Project to selected refugee families. In line with the Agency’s policy of co-signing between husbands and wives, this week (as of 27 May) 51 more families have signed the undertaking for their new homes. As of 27 May, a total of 71 families have signed the undertaking – 20 families during the previous week - to establish their right to use the new shelter and 9 families have already been handed over the key for their new house.
“The completed dwellings are currently being handed over to refugee families living in substandard shelters that impose direct physical and/or health threats to their inhabitants in addition to other protection concerns. These families typically have very few assets or opportunities to escape from poverty and suffering,” commented Asem Abu-Shawish, the Chief of the UNRWA Relief and Social Service Programme.
The Rehousing Project, funded by the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent with US$ 19.7 million, offers 600 new housing units in total. The construction of the housing units started in 2007, yet works stalled in the following three years due to the Israeli imposed blockade. In 2010, when access to construction material became possible for the UN under an agreed mechanism with Israel, 151 housing units were built and have provided shelter for refugee families ever since. In 2014, UNRWA started the construction of the remaining 449 units which have been completed this spring.
“The completion of the 449 housing units in Khan Younis in this very critical situation in Gaza is a dream to come true. Besides rehousing families who lost their shelters due to repeated conflicts or who live in very substandard dwellings, it is also the first project which creates much needed camp improvement opportunities by relocating some families from the camp,“ stated Mohammed Reyati, the Deputy Chief of the UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme.
Almost half of the caseload of eligible refugees for the Khan Younis Rehousing Project are Social Safety Net Programme (SSNP) cases who are living in constricted shelters– defined narrowly as those with more than 3 persons living in less than 50m2- and who are identified all across the Gaza Strip according to an UNRWA scoring system that considers social, financial, cultural and technical criteria. Other selected beneficiaries include refugee owners of houses that were demolished by military operations before the 2014 hostilities and who have not yet received an alternative dwelling unit through UNRWA, refugee families from Khan Younis refugee camp whose houses will be demolished due to improving the living conditions in the camp, or families of school installation attendants who are living in UNRWA schools and thus occupying space urgently needed for the growing student population.
“UNRWA does care about us refugees, as this project once more shows,” said Khaled Mohammed Al Jalous, before he signed the undertaking together with his wife, Etimad Shukri al-Jalous, in the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Office in Khan Younis. The Jalous family has lived in a small, deficient shelter since 1996. “Now we are 11 persons living in a small two-bedroom shelter; soon, we will have the double size of that, and it will be healthier and bigger,” he added positively.
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 more than US$ 106 million.
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