The opening ceremony of the three-day sports event, on 25 April, took place in Saida, southern Lebanon, and was attended by the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr; the Deputy Representative of UNICEF Lebanon, Luciano Calestini; Cultural Advisor of the Embassy of Palestine, Maher Moshail; and the Representative of the Lebanese Palestine Dialogue Committee, Lina Hamdan.
“Children are children everywhere, regardless of their nationality or whether they have a disability; all children have the right to play and to enjoy recreational activities”, said Mr. Calestini during the ceremony. “Sports provide this vehicle, which is vital for the physical development and psychological well-being of children and adolescents, especially those affected by the Syria crisis.”
Thanking UNICEF for its continuous support to UNRWA and to Palestine refugees, Ms. Dismorr said: “UNICEF continues to be an invaluable partner to UNRWA in supporting, through various projects and activities, vulnerable Palestine refugee children and youth, in particular Palestine refugee children and youth from Syria.”
The games will take place from 25 to 27 April, during which period over 300 students from all the Palestine refugee camps across Lebanon, as well as Lebanese students, will benefit. They will compete at the UNRWA Siblin Training Centre in six categories: football, table tennis, running, volleyball, basketball and chess. On 27 April, medals will be distributed to the winners and participants of the various events. This is the sixth edition of the successful Palestiniadi programme, which was formerly supported by Italy’s Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI).
As in the past two years, Palestiniadi encourages children with disabilities to attend and to be integrated. In 2014, the aim is to increase the number of children with disabilities to 10 per cent of the overall participants.
UNICEF and UNRWA have a long-standing partnership in Lebanon. UNICEF remains one of the largest UNRWA partners in education and health for Palestine refugee children. Since 2012, UNICEF has provided US$ 4.4 million to assist Palestine refugee children from Syria in the fields of education, child protection, health and sanitation. In addition, UNICEF has contributed to regular UNRWA programmes with a total of US$ 1.2 million since 2011 towards learning support activities and back-to-school kits.
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$ 68 million.
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