Statement by Christopher Gunness, UNRWA Spokesperson
UNRWA strongly condemns the armed violence that took place in the Ein El Hilweh Palestine refugee camp in Lebanon on the evening of 15 January 2017.
Recurrent armed violence continues to impact the civilian population in the camp, including children. Last night’s shooting caused injuries to six people, including one child, and shocked and frightened camp inhabitants.
UNRWA remains deeply concerned about the recurrent violence in Ein El Hilweh and its impact on the civilian population and our staff. Sadly, we can confirm that on 15 January, near his home in Ein El Hilweh, an UNRWA staff member was severely injured. While there was reportedly shooting in the area when our staff member was wounded, current information indicates that he was not deliberately targeted.
UNRWA again calls on all those involved to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the protection of Palestine refugees, particularly of children. Armed actors must take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of UNRWA staff, students, and installations.
As a humanitarian organization we are significantly concerned about the impact of ongoing armed violence and disturbances taking place in Ein El Hilweh and the impact on safe access to UNRWA services, including schools and vital health services.
In the year 2016, 5,452 children attending UNRWA schools inside the camp missed at least 10 days of school. The two UNRWA health centres in Ein El Hilweh serve an average of 1,100 persons per day and their forced closure of seven days since December impacts on the health-care needs of Palestine refugees. Because of violence, UNRWA has been forced to close different installations on 18 occasions since the beginning of December 2016. UNRWA continues to urge all armed actors to respect the inviolability and neutrality of UNRWA premises in accordance with international law and to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of UNRWA staff, students and installations.
UNRWA will continue to monitor developments and increase our dialogue with all relevant actors to advocate for the safety and dignity of Palestine refugees living in Ein El Hilweh and to bring an end to the violence.
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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank 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.
For more information, please contact:
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724