On Monday, 14 September 2020, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, began his first official visit to Lebanon since he assumed his post on 18 March.
Accompanied by the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Mr. Claudio Cordone, Mr. Lazzarini’s visit started at the Siblin Training Centre where he engaged with young Palestine refugee students about their aspirations and their concerns. He also visited the building that was refurbished to accommodate Palestine refugees in need of isolation because of COVID-19.
The Commissioner-General then visited the isolation centre and the UNRWA clinic in El Buss camp, where he was briefed on the health services that Palestine refugees continued to receive under new measures and procedures because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The visit included the recycling site, the sea wall and the damaged homes in Rashidieh camp, where Mr. Lazzarini met with a group of sanitation labourers to thank them for working alongside frontline staff under the current difficult conditions to help raise the level of safety and hygiene for their communities.
“Coming back to Beirut in my new role but after the shock of last month’s explosion is very compelling,” said the Commissioner-General. “The time I spent with UNRWA colleagues, with people who live in Palestine refugee camps and with representatives of the Popular Committee and the Camp Improvement complemented my knowledge of the complex situation of Palestine refugees in Lebanon.”
As all UNRWA school children have started going back to learning across the region this month, Mr. Lazzarini met the school parliamentarians in Tyre area to listen to their views on issues related to education and their concerns about the limited prospects that await them after they graduate.
“Keeping young people motivated and helping them believe in their future is key to the stability of any society,” said the Commissioner-General. “Giving young Palestine refugees education and skills is at the center of our programmes. It is crucial to help them be productive agents in their community and to support their access to the labor market.”
Mr. Lazzarini will also hold meeting with Lebanese and Palestinian officials in the coming days to discuss issues related to Palestine refugees and the work of UNRWA in 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 5.6 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.