This week, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, inaugurated an UNRWA school and health centre and visited repaired shelters in Dera’a refugee camp, in southern Syria. The camp, once home to 10,000 Palestine refugees, was severely damaged during the conflict. Since their displacement, over 3,700 Palestine refugees have returned to Dera’a, where they faced extremely difficult living conditions, extensive damage and limited access to basic infrastructure. UNRWA is their sole provider of basic services.
The rehabilitation of the camp’s health centre and the UNRWA al-Safsaf Tiberias, School, were made possible thanks to the generous support of the Government of Japan and UN Habitat. The health centre will provide medical services, including mental and psychosocial care, to the camp’s Palestine refugee residents. Some 800 students will now be able to continue their education in a newly refurbished school compound. Additionally, the camp’s health centre was designed with increased access for persons with disabilities and features an environmentally friendly solar power system to generate electricity and decrease fuel consumption costs.
“Rehabilitating our facilities to provide critical services to Palestine refugees is the only way to help them rebuild their lives and live in safety and dignity after years of displacement. UNRWA is a lifeline for these refugees. I am very grateful to Japan and UN Habitat for making this possible.” Mr. Lazzarini added, “It is my hope that we can replicate this success and support thousands of refugees who are returning to other places like Yarmouk and Ein el Tal camps, which were also severely damaged during the conflict. To make this happen we must rehabilitate the damaged UNRWA schools and clinics.”
Over 40 per cent of Palestine refugees living in Syria are displaced internally, with over 90 per cent living on less than US$ 2 a day. Eleven years of conflict, coupled with the global COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the impact of the crisis in Ukraine on food prices, make it increasingly difficult for many Palestine refugees to pay rent outside camps. Many have no other choice but to return to living amidst the rubble of their damaged or destroyed homes. Over the next month, UNRWA expects more refugees to return to Dera’a, Ein el Tal, and Yarmouk camps.
During the Brussels VI Syria Conference, “Supporting Syria and the Neighborhood” earlier this month, UNRWA urgently appealed to donors to support the renovation of damaged Agency installations in refugee camps across Syria.
The partnership with UN Habitat also made possible minor home repair support to some 200 of the most vulnerable Palestine refugee families, in addition to a a playground that was also constructed. The Agency is also proud to provide 200 youth with access to vocational training opportunities through its technical and vocational training centres. “These are examples of what we are able to achieve through partnership, pulling our resources and expertise together within the UN family,” said the UNRWA Commissioner-General during the inauguration ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by the Deputy Governor of Dera’a, Abdo Khasharfeh, the Deputy Director-General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR), Mr. Taha Farhat, UN Habitat Representative, Mr. Ryan Knox, camp representatives and the refugee community. A speech was also delivered on behalf of Mr. Akira Endo, Special Coordinator for Syria and Chargé d'affaires of the Embassy of Japan in Syrian Arab Republic.