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Lebanon: Rubble removal starts in Nahr El Bared and a new Vocational Training Centre funded by Germany opens its doors in the North

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Beirut, 29 October 2008 - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and in collaboration with the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee and the Palestinian Liberation Organization launched on 29 October the rubble removal operations in Nahr el-Bared camp. The ceremony took place on the edge of the camp overlooking the ongoing works.

The official launch was attended by UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Mr. Michael Williams, UNDP resident representative Ms Marta Ruedas, UNRWA's Deputy Commissioner-General Mr. Filipo Grandi, the Chairman of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee Ambassador Khalil Mekkawi, the PLO Representative in Lebanon Mr. Abbas Zaki, in addition to heads of UN missions, ambassadors and representatives of the refugee community.

On behalf of UNRWA, UNDP is implementing the rubble removal. This constitutes the prelude to the start of the reconstruction process in January 2009 that is expected to take three to four years and to be split into eight packages.

In addition to the rubble removal, UNRWA also inaugurated today a new Vocational Training Centre in the North, fully funded by the German Government providing additional training places for North Lebanon Area students. The Centre located near Nahr el-Bared camp offers nine courses focused in an initial period, on construction trades. It will run in a rented building for two intakes (2008-2010 and 2009-2011) providing marketable skills to around 250 trainees per intake.

The opening of the new centre will help Palestinian youth living in the North to improve their skills and find jobs, contributing thus to the improvement of their families.

Some 4.6 million Palestine refugees in UNRWA's five fields of operations - Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem - are eligible for Agency services, including education, healthcare, social services, shelter, micro-credit loans and emergency aid. UNRWA employs nearly 30,000 staff, the vast majority of whom are Palestine refugees. UNRWA's operations are financed almost entirely by voluntary contributions from donors. The Agency's regular budget for 2008-2009 is $1.1 billion, which covers the recurrent costs of the Agency's education, health and relief and social services activities.

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For more information please contact UNRWA Public Information Office tel:00961-1-840461 ext 314. e-mail: h.samra@unrwa.org