The Palestine refugee communities served by UNRWA are profoundly affected by poverty. In the blockaded Gaza strip, a recent report found that 52% of households live below the poverty line. The situation is also bleak in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, where absolute poverty rates among Palestine refugees at the end of 2007 were, respectively, 12.0%, 3.0% and 7.0%.
In the occupied Palestinian territory (Gaza and the West Bank) the rate of unemployment remains amongst the highest in the world. Moreover in all five fields refugees are more likely to suffer from unemployment than their non-refugee counterparts.
The activities organised at UNRWA schools to mark the day were designed to give children an opportunity to discuss and protest against their own poverty as part of the wider global campaign calling on world leaders to deliver the Millennium Development Goals and halve extreme poverty by 2015.
On the day there was quite a buzz going around schools as students left their normal classes to participate in a host of activities. These included drawing and essay writing competitions, plays, songs and debates.
In each UNRWA field one school held a central event; while in all schools, pupils simultaneously stood up and shouted, "No to poverty".
At Al-Falouja school in Yarmouk Syria, members of a committee of students and teachers dedicated to helping poorer students sat down to discuss the issue of poverty.
"If we can help, why don't we?" said 11 year old Bayan Dinbas. Her sentiments echo the message of the global campaign which urges people all over the world to "Stand Up and Take Action against Poverty".
In Gaza, a student gave a speech introducing the central event at Deir El Balah Elementary Co-Ed School A. In it she demanded that "the whole world must be made aware that the growing poverty threatens Gazan children’s childhood."
She added, "too many people in the Gaza Strip live below the poverty line. This leads children to give up their schools and studies and look for employment from a very young age in order to support their struggling families."
"Now it is time to Stand Up and Take Action against poverty in Gaza and the whole world."
This strong and confident voice is just one of the nearly half a million UNRWA school children that raised their voices, stood up, and said no to poverty.