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United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
31 December 2005
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was established by the UN General Assembly on 8 December 1949. It was created to respond to the dire humanitarian needs of about 880,000 Palestine refugees who had fled to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria from the fighting in Palestine during 1947 and 1948.
Over the past five decades, the Agency has grown into one of the largest United Nations programmes in the world, employing over 26,000 staff members to provide humanitarian and human development services to 4.3 million refugees.
Through its education programme, UNRWA provides primary education, secondary schools in Lebanon, and training. A network of 125 UNRWA clinics provides free basic healthcare and the Agency also pays for hospitalization and operates environmental health services in refugee camps. UNRWA’s relief and social services arm provides safety net assistance to the very poorest of refugees and operates a large development programme to help the poor to help themselves. Refugee entrepreneurs are assisted by a micro-credit operation that has grown into one of the largest and most successful in the region.
In addition to its regular operations, UNRWA has repeatedly provided emergency food aid, medical care, shelter and protection to refugees caught in the regular outbreaks of conflict that have buffeted the region over the last 55 years.
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