On the 5th Brussels conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and of the Region", the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reiterates its call to support Palestine refugees who are in Syria and in neighboring countries. The United Nations and the European Union co-chair the annual conference which brings together governments and international organisations and Syrian civil society.
Since the start of the conflict, many UNRWA installations inside Syria, such as schools and health centers, have become inaccessible or sustained severe damage. Forty per cent of UNRWA classrooms have been lost and almost 25 per cent of the Agency's health centres are currently unusable due to the conflict. UNRWA in Syria has also lost 19 staff members during the 10-year conflict.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini addressed attendees: 'Today, 90 per cent of the nearly 440,000 Palestine refugees who remain in Syria live in absolute poverty. The more than 45,000 Palestine refugees from Syria who are now in Jordan and Lebanon are also amongst the most vulnerable people as both countries struggle with the impact of COVID-19. As we painfully remember ten years of conflict, UNRWA remains dedicated to rebuilding its infrastructure to serve the Palestine refugee community in Syria."
The annual conference seeks to generate international financial support to help meet the dramatically increasing humanitarian needs inside Syria, for Syrian refugees, and for refugee-hosting communities and countries in the region.
"Some 600 families have recently returned to Yarmouk camp; they live amidst rubble in very dire conditions. Ten years of conflict, displacement, soaring inflation, loss of livelihoods and now a year of COVID-19 all make their life untenable," said Michael-Ebye Amanya, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria. "UNRWA assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and in neighbouring countries is vital and often their only lifeline and their last source of support," he added.
In 2021, UNRWA requires US$ 318 million to secure emergency humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan through its Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal. Palestine refugees in Syria and those who fled the conflict to Jordan and Lebanon rely entirely on the Agency's services to survive their continued displacement.
As most Palestine refugees from Syria are today at least twice displaced, UNRWA calls on the international community to continue to include them in all humanitarian plans and responses around the Syria crisis.
While images of the destroyed Yarmouk Palestine refugee camp have become iconic, several others of the 12 Palestine refugee camps across the country have also seen entire neighborhoods severely damaged. "Where Palestine refugees are able to safely return, UNRWA must be able to provide services while it also continues to operate health centers, schools and social services to those who have been displaced inside the country and into Jordan and Lebanon."
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency's programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, 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 5.7 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.