Irish Minister of State for Development and Trade Joe Costello visited the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Lebanon on 7 October 2013 to discuss the challenges facing the Agency, in particular those due to the influx of Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS). Following this visit, he continued on to visit UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip.
Minister Costello visited Burj Barajneh Palestine refugee camp in Beirut, accompanied by the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr, who provided a briefing on the ongoing activities of the Agency in Lebanon, including the services provided to PRS.
During his tour of Burj Barajneh and his observation of the living conditions of Palestine refugees, Mr Costello visited the UNRWA health centre in the camp and met with a Palestinian family who had fled the ongoing violence in Syria. The family described the effects of the conflict on their lives and the daily challenges they experience in Lebanon regarding housing and the high cost of living.
The Minister said: “What I have seen and heard today from those directly affected by the crisis in Syria is deeply concerning and distressing. Some of these families have had their whole lives uprooted twice as a result of violent conflict. Our contribution today recognizes the unprecedented scale of the humanitarian crisis, as well as the enormous demands on agencies such as UNRWA and the extraordinary generosity of Lebanon, which is now home to some 730,000 refugees from Syria.”
The Minister also visited Tulkarm School in Burj Barajneh, where he met with Palestine refugee students, including PRS students, and received a briefing on the education services provided by UNRWA.
During his visit, the Minister announced a contribution of EUR 500,000 to UNRWA on behalf of the Government of Ireland to assist Palestine refugees from Syria who have fled to Lebanon.
Expressing the Agency’s appreciation, Ms Dismorr said: “The generous contribution from Ireland comes at an important time as Palestine refugees from Syria continue to cross the border, with over 47,000 PRS currently living in Lebanon. This visit has provided an opportunity for Minister Costello to see first-hand the challenges and suffering facing PRS and this donation will help UNRWA to deliver emergency relief assistance to these people.”
The Government of Ireland has been an UNRWA partner for many years, and a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission since 2008. In 2013 alone, Ireland supported the Agency's human development programming in health, relief and education with EUR 4,000,000 (US$ 5,400,000), while contributing a further EUR 500,000 (US$ 675,000) for the Agency's emergency activities in response to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 54.3 million.
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