UNRWA’s Vital Role in Palestinian Refugee Care


According to the United Nations, Palestinian refugees are “persons whose place of residence was Palestine between 1 June 1946 and 15 May 1948, and who have lost both their homes and their means of livelihood as a result of the conflict of 1948″.

In 1948, after the first Arab-Israeli conflict, the UN established UNRWA, the first and only United Nations organization to exclusively support Palestinian refugees.

Support for Palestinian refugees: UNRWA’s mandate

Hanin Abou Salem, political analyst and researcher at Cardiff University, explains in an article for Al Jazeera that if UNRWA merged with UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency), Palestinian refugees and their descendants would be integrated or resettled , they would no longer be recognized as refugees and would lose all hope of repatriation.

UNRWA’s mandate extends to the provision of services to Palestinian refugees in its five fields of operation: the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Therefore, Palestinian refugees in these areas do not fall within the mandate of UNHCR. However, UNHCR has a mandate with respect to Palestinian refugees when they are outside UNRWA’s areas of operation in certain circumstances.

Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations Security Council Mediator who was assassinated by a Zionist group in 1948, observed that “No agreement can ever be just and complete… as long as these innocent victims of conflict are denied the right to return to their homes.” UNRWA should continue to exist until a just and equitable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem materializes.

The role of UNRWA today

“Civilians and civilian infrastructure, including UN facilities hosting displaced persons, must be protected and accessible to humanitarian assistance everywhere in Gaza, at all times.” These were the words of UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzerini at the International Conference on Gaza held on 7 November in Paris, in the presence of Emmanuel Macron.

When the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) began operating, it responded to the needs of approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees.

Today the number has risen to around 5.9 million and, due to the recent escalation of the conflict, is destined to increase rapidly. It is estimated that as of 7 October 2023 there are already 1.5 million new refugees in facilities and over 28 thousand people have requested psychological support in the last month. UNRWA continues to provide basic necessities to displaced people every day, such as drinking water, flour and life-saving medicines.

Who finances UNRWA and how does it manage the funds

UNRWA provides humanitarian assistance and contributes to the protection of refugees through the provision of essential services in the areas of basic education, primary and mental health care, social and relief services, improvement of infrastructure and camps, microcredit and emergency assistance, even in situations of armed conflict.

The USA is the main financier of UNRWA, followed by Germany, the European Union, Sweden, Norway, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Turkey. In 2022, Italy was in 14th place, thanks to sending a total contribution of 18 million dollars.

58% of the contributions received in 2020 by UNRWA were spent on Education, 15% on Health Services, 13% on Support Services, 6% on Assistance and Social Services, 4% on infrastructure and improvement of refugee camps.

Where Palestinian refugees live today

Between 2.1 and 3.25 million people from the diaspora (Nakba) live as refugees in neighboring Jordan, more than 1 million live between Syria and Lebanon, and around 750 thousand live in Saudi Arabia. Chile has the largest concentration of Palestinians (around half a million) outside the Arab world.

In Europe, Palestinian refugees in total number just under 200 thousand. The country that hosts the most is Germany (around 80 thousand), followed by the Scandinavian countries (50 thousand), the United Kingdom (20 thousand), Spain (12 thousand), France (5 thousand), Greece (4 thousand) and others Countries (20 thousand).

With the worsening of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the number of refugees is destined to grow further. At the moment the only crossing in the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip is Rafah on the border with Egypt, which is opening the gates only for seriously injured minors and Gazan citizens with foreign passports.

This article is originally published on buonenotizie.it


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