14 July 2013
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon, Robert Watkins, visited the Ein El Hilweh Palestine refugee camp in Saida, south Lebanon, on 11 July, accompanied by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Ann Dismorr, the Director of Operations in Lebanon for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In Ein El Hilweh, the UN officials learned about the many hardships facing Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS), thousands of whom have fled the long-running conflict.
During their visit, Mr Watkins and Mrs Zerrougui met with PRS in Lebanon who currently reside in collective temporary accommodation. The families, wishing for an immediate end to the violence in Syria and a speedy return to their homes, told them about the difficult conditions they face in Lebanon, the high cost of living and the trauma of war and displacement. The UN envoys also met with PRS children enrolled in UNRWA schools, a number of NGO representatives and the Palestinian popular committees.
Ms Dismorr briefed Mr Watkins and Mrs Zerrougui on UNRWA efforts to alleviate the suffering of the 71,000 PRS now in Lebanon. She also told them about the challenges facing UNRWA as it works to address their urgent needs in housing, food, water, camp infrastructure, health and education. “The conflict in Syria is one of the greatest challenges UNRWA has seen since it was established, in 1949, to provide relief to Palestine refugees,” she said.
The UN envoys were also informed about the shortfall in the UNRWA relief fund for Palestinian refugees from Syria, and the Agency’s efforts to raise the funds to cater for their needs. On 7 June, UNRWA appealed for US$ 65 million to cover PRS needs from January to December 2013. Of that sum, the Agency has received over US$ 25 million, and has confirmed pledges of an additional US$ 3 million. “We are committed to providing vital services and support to the refugees who have come to Lebanon,” Ms Dismorr said, reiterating the refugee families’ wish for a swift end to the violence in Syria.