17 September 2015
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl visited Syria from 15 to 17 September, where he met with Palestine refugees, UNRWA staff and government officials.
In Homs and Damascus, Mr. Krähenbühl expressed his appreciation and solidarity for the extraordinary engagement, determination and courage of UNRWA staff, working under tremendous strain and exposed to considerable daily risks in delivering vital services to Palestine refugees, many of whom have been displaced by the conflict. At a ceremony in Damascus, the Commissioner-General unveiled a commemorative plaque to honour the 14 UNRWA staff who lost their lives during the ongoing hostilities. “We pay tribute to our staff and will never forget their contribution to the work of UNRWA,” said Mr. Krähenbühl on this occasion.
During his visit, the Commissioner-General met with Dr. Faisal Miqdad, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates; Omar Ghalawangi, the Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the High Relief Commission; Rima al-Qadiri, the Minister of Social Affairs; Ali Mustafa, Director-General of the General Administration for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR); and Talal Barazi, the Governor of Homs.
In these meetings, the Commissioner-General underlined the importance of humanitarian access to all Palestine refugee camps and communities, including Yarmouk, its adjacent neighbourhoods and Khan Eshieh, where refugees face major needs in terms of protection and survival. Mr. Krähenbühl called for more to be done to protect Palestine refugees from the effects of the conflict and appealed for the safety and security of UNRWA staff. The importance of ongoing coordination with Syrian institutions to re-establish services in Husseinieh camp was positively noted, as was the support of the Ministry of Education in allowing UNRWA to run some of its classes in ministry school buildings.
“This is a time for revival of solidarity with Palestine refugees,” said Mr. Krähenbühl. “Within the larger tragedy of the armed conflict, the unbearable suffering of Palestine refugees in Syria must not be forgotten. The extent of displacement inside the country and flight beyond its borders is continuing to grow. The daily threats and pressures that Palestine refugees face, their protection and their well-being should be a matter of utmost priority for all.”
UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, deepening poverty and conflict. As a result, the UNRWA General Fund, which supports core essential services and most staffing costs, operates with a large deficit. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large deficits, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
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Public Information Officer - Syria Field Office
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