By Patrick Galey
Beirut , 23 March 2010
The head of the United Nations’ humanitarian mission in Gaza visited Lebanon on Monday to receive funding to build a kindergarten in the besieged enclave, in a project constituting “tangible, positive action.”
John Ging, director of the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNWRA) was presented with a check for $266,000 by Education Minister Hassan Mneimeh before heading to the Burj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in south Beirut.
The amount was raised by collections from Lebanese school children and will go toward building an educational facility for the children of Beit Hanoun.
The foundation for peace and prosperity
Speaking after the ceremony, Ging thanked school children and the Education Ministry for the donation.
“The fact that this money was collected through schools across Lebanon – from children reaching out to other children – is particularly gratifying,” he said. “The donation will translate into concrete and lasting change for many of those whose childhood is being robbed by ever-increasing impoverishment and violence under siege and occupation.
“Education is the foundation for peace and prosperity and that is why this generous donation is such a significant cause for celebration,” Ging added.
He also paid tribute to former Education Minister Bahia Hariri, whose initiative had started money raising action.
Lebanon has more than 400,000 Palestinians officially registered in its 12 refugee camps and Ging said that the Lebanese sympathised more than most with the plight of Gazans.
“Within the community, the kindergarten will demonstrate your deep concern for those who suffer,” he said. “As we implement this project we will be continually reminded that with this donation you are creating a bond between the people of Lebanon and the next generation in Gaza.”
Following his visit to Beirut, Ging visited UNRWA’s Lebanon Field Office in Bir Hassan.
The scars of conflict
After Israel’s Operation Cast Lead – which killed more than 1,400 Gazans, mostly civilian – ended in January 2009, the estimated 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza became victims of an intensified Israeli blockade which international observers say denies civilians of vital goods, aid and human rights.
“The children of Gaza have languished for more than one thousand days and one thousand nights under a medieval siege, making the achievement of the human development goals which UNRWA stands for all the more difficult but equally all the more essential and important,” Ging added.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon paid his first visit to the embattled strip in over a year on Sunday and voiced his concern over Israeli initiated siege conditions.
The closure “causes unacceptable suffering of human beings,” Ban said, adding the blockade was “not sustainable and it is wrong.”
Ging reiterated the UN’s determination to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza and said the Lebanese donation of a kindergarten would greatly benefit Palestinians living with the blockade on a daily basis.
“Scars left by the experience of conflict will take many years to heal,” he added. “Investment in people is investment in the future and a kindergarten is the first structure which begins the long road of education and development from child to productive responsible adult.”