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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
31 December 2006

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 800,000 Palestine refugees who fled to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria from the fighting in Palestine during 1947 and 1948.

Over nearly six decades, the Agency has grown into one of the largest United Nations programmes, employing more than 27,000 staff members to provide services to 4.4 million refugees. Its purpose is to contribute to the human development of Palestine refugees in its five fields of operation until a just solution is found for the refugee issue.

UNRWA is a global advocate for the protection and care of Palestine refugees. In circumstances of humanitarian crisis and armed conflict, the Agency’s emergency interventions – as well as its presence – serve as tangible symbols of the international community’s concern, helping to create a stable environment.

Through its education programme, UNRWA provides primary education, secondary schools in Lebanon, and vocational and technical training.

A network of 127 UNRWA clinics offers free basic health care and the Agency also pays for hospitalisation and provides environmental health services in refugee camps. UNRWA’s relief and social services arm provides social safety net assistance to the poorest refugees as well as a development programme to help the poor help themselves.

Refugee entrepreneurs are assisted by a microcredit programme 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 outbreaks of conflict that have buffeted the region over the past six decades.


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