UNRWA Commisionner-General Calls for Support of Palestine Refugees in Audience with Pope Francis

Human Wrongs Watch

ROME, 11 May 2023 (UNEWA)*Today, His Holiness Pope Francis received the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini.
His Holiness Pope Francis (left) receives UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini (right) at the Vatican on 11 May 2023. © Vatican Media

His Holiness Pope Francis (left) receives UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini (right) at the Vatican on 11 May 2023. © Vatican Media

The Commissioner-General described the unprecedented challenges facing Palestine Refugees, especially amid a lack of prospect to reach a solution to their plight.

He provided the Pope with an overview on the pressing needs of Palestine Refugees across the UNRWA areas of operation and firsthand testimonies following his recent visits to Syria and Lebanon following the devastating earthquake.

Commissioner-General Lazzarini highlighted the critical work of UNRWA in support of the human development of Palestine Refugees, including in education through more than 700 schools serving over half a million Palestine Refugee girls and boys.

Education – the largest programme that the Agency runs – is shaped by the principles of peace and tolerance. The Commissioner-General asked the Holy Father to help ensure the plight of the 5.9 million Palestine Refugees is not forgotten and their right to live in peace and dignity is upheld.

“I am incredibly honoured to bring to Pope Francis the story of Palestine Refugees and the critical work and impact of UNRWA services on their daily lives,” said the Commissioner-General.

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of UNRWA, support for the human rights of Palestine Refugees and the work of UNRWA is more vital than ever to help them achieve a dignified life. The serious financial crisis that the Agency continues to face risks undoing the human development gains of Palestine Refugees,” he added.

During the meeting, Lazzarini gave the Pope a letter from Leen, a 15-year-old girl and an UNRWA student parliamentarian. She lives in Dheisheh refugee camp, near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.

“Like other children in the camp, I want to complete my education, so I can build a good future for myself and help my family and the people in the camp improve their lives. As a Palestine Refugee, I want to live in peace like the rest of the world’s children. We want our rights, we want to live in freedom, peace and security, and we want to go to school in peace and without fear.”

  • UNRWA is the only UN agency that operates a fully-fledged school system of over 700 schools. These schools currently provide education to over half a million children.
  • The Agency-wide UNRWA Student Parliament was first established in 2017, providing an opportunity for UNRWA students from the five fields to meet and work together to support their peers and their communities and advocate for their rights locally, regionally, and globally. It builds on the school-level student parliaments operational in UNRWA schools since 2001, as part of the Agency’s Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) Education Programme.  
  • Between April and August of 1948, more than 700,000 Palestine refugees were displaced as a result of the 1948 War.  
  • The plight of Palestine refugees is the longest unresolved refugee crisis in the world today. UNRWA continues to maintain an active registration of 5.9 million Palestine Refugees. Our Refugees Archive Project maintains a historic record of registration and lineage, while our recently launched e-UNRWA registration mobile application enables Palestine Refugees to amend records and register births and deaths from anywhere in the world.
Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance.

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.

*SOURCE: UNRWA. Go to ORIGINAL.https://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/news-releases/unrwa-commissioner-general-calls-support-palestine-refugees-audience-pope


13 May 2023
  • The general situation remains very tense in the Gaza Strip as the escalation continues. Movement is limited while the markets are open. 
  • The Ministry of Health in Gaza reported 33 people killed to date. This includes six children and three women. UNRWA verified that among those killed, at least 15 were Palestine Refugees. At least 147 people were injured since the escalation started on 9 May. 
  • Key crossing points (Erez and Kerem Shalom) remain closed in both directions for five consecutive days. This is impacting the movement of humanitarian staff and essential supplies, including fuel availability for public utilities. 
  • All UNRWA 22 health clinics are open today. The number of attending staff is half of the normal workforce, with nearly half of the pre-escalation number of patients. 
  • Medical supplies are available at all HCs. UNRWA is providing Maternal Health Care, Child Health Care, Non-Communicable Diseases, Outpatient, emergency dental services, and remote follow up of the appointed Antenatal cases.
  • Toll free calls/telecommunication services to support health care have increased by 200 per cent since the escalation started on 9 May. 
  • Consultation is ongoing with UNRWA contracted hospitals to support maternal health. 
  • The sanitation services continued today at all camps through collecting and transferring 380 tons of solid waste from refugee camps to landfills as per emergency arrangements.
  • The water supply service is functioning through UNRWA water wells at Jabalia, Khan Younis and Rafah camps.  
  • E-UNRWA registration received 13 registration applications. 
  • UNRWA delivered food assistance to 1,423 families (7,092 people) in Khan Younis Bani Suhaila and KYTC, Rafah West, and Gaza Tuffah distribution centres. 
  • Phone calls through the help line continued with most requests related to food assistance. UNRWA has 51 front line staff operating those helplines. 
  • Three families reported stress related problems. The psychosocial team is following up.
  • The UNRWA logistics transportation division supported UNRWA front line workers through drivers and means of transportation and the distribution of medical supplies and fuel.  
  • Flour (291 metric tons) was delivered to the UNRWA Rafah Log Base and issued to distribution centres in Rafah west, Bani Suhaila, and Khan Younis Training Centre  
  • All UNRWA schools remain closed. “Education in Emergency” programme was activated today to provide education via remote learning through the UNRWA Digital Learning Platform. To date, the platform has registered at least 60,000. The number of users is likely to increase. 
  • UNRWA security teams continue to operate 24/7 to support operations and service delivery. 
  • Information to the communities on UNRWA services continued to flow on UNRWA social media and other digital platforms. 

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*SOURCE: UNRWA. GO TO ORIGINAL. https://www.unrwa.org/resources/reports/unrwa-situation-report-3-gaza-strip

2023 Human Wrongs Watch


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