In 2017, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was able to rapidly and effectively deliver human development and humanitarian assistance by drawing on its operational strengths, in particular its 31,000-strong work force, the majority of whom are Palestine refugees and members of the communities they serve. As primarily supported under the Agency programme budget, UNRWA succeeded in providing education to 526,646 children in 2017/18, over 8.3 million primary health care (PHC) consultations, social safety net assistance (including cash and food) to over 255,000 individuals, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) for 7,688 youth and microfinance loans to 38,595 people, including 13,756 Palestine refugees. In addition, 345 families benefited from shelter rehabilitation or construction assistance and, in accordance with UNRWA protection and safety standards, the Agency either constructed, upgraded or reconstructed 21 health centres (HC) and 12 schools. UNRWA protection assistance and advocacy extended across all fields of Agency operation with a notable emphasis on the further operationalization of key protection policies, frameworks, strategies and guidelines that will further equip UNRWA personnel to deliver practical protection outcomes for Palestine refugees. Emergency humanitarian assistance was extended to 1.43 million refugees, primarily in the oPt and Syria.
In Syria, where inflation and rising commodity prices continue to erode household purchasing power, impoverish livelihoods and restrict market access, UNRWA’s humanitarian assistance programme continued to serve as a critical lifeline for Palestine refugees. In 2017, cash and in-kind food assistance was provided to over 410,000 refugees. However, due to underfunding of the Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal, the Agency could distribute only four out of the planned six rounds of cash and food assistance.
PHC was made available through 27 health facilities. Over 32,000 students received psychosocial support through group counselling. In addition, the Agency’s five Family Support Offices throughout Syria facilitated legal counselling and psychosocial support through a network of community development social workers and volunteer lawyers for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) and refugees seeking legal counselling related to civil registration and documentation.
In Lebanon, humanitarian support in the form of cash grants was provided for food, housing and winterization to 32,300 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS). In addition, quality, inclusive and equitable education was extended to 5,482 PRS children; PHC was dispensed through 27 HCs and vital protection and legal advice was made available to those in need.
In Jordan, UNRWA provided emergency cash assistance to 16,559 PRS categorized as vulnerable and extremely vulnerable and one-time emergency cash grants were distributed to 233 extremely vulnerable PRS families to help absorb shocks and respond to specific protection concerns. PHC was extended to 15,380 PRS while 1,396 children were educated through a network of 144 schools. Finally, psychosocial support was provided to 785 school-age children.
During the reporting period, UNRWA emergency assistance supported the food and nutritional needs of 894,232 vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza, including 17,396 female-headed households. The Agency also provided temporary Cash-for-Work (CfW) opportunities for over 17,700 refugees, including over 5,100 women, however, due to underfunding of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Emergency Appeal (EA), UNRWA could only support 33 per cent of the targeted number of beneficiaries. To mitigate the impact of conflict, poverty and the blockade on Palestine refugee children’s physical and mental well-being, the Agency held recreational activities (Summer Fun Weeks) for almost 143,000 refugee children, while 10,020 children benefitted from group counselling support.
Under the Education in Emergencies (EiE) programme, schools were supplied with essential educational materials, sufficient for over 271,000 students. In addition, 11,088 children with special needs received a comprehensive medical examination.
UNRWA continued to support reconstruction efforts ensuing from the 2014 hostilities. Under emergency funding, 5,037 Palestine refugee families received grants to complete minor and major repairs while rental subsidies (transitional shelter cash assistance) to support temporary shelter needs were extended to 4,492 families. The lack of funding also impacted on the shelter repair intervention, allowing the Agency to reach only 9.9 per cent of the 2017 target.
In the West Bank, emergency food assistance for vulnerable Palestine refugee families was provided through a variety of means. In partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), e-vouchers were provided to more than 49,000 food-insecure refugees outside camps, of whom almost 50 per cent were women. However, due to underfunding of the oPt EA, the Agency was able to reach only 30 per cent of the planned target under this intervention. Also in partnership with WFP, UNRWA provided in-kind food assistance to 37,023 Bedouins and herders, assessed to be food insecure or vulnerable to various protection threats. Emergency CfW opportunities were extended to over 8,300 food-insecure refugee households. In addition, six emergency mobile health clinics improved access to PHC for 104,384 people living in hard-to-reach locations, while community mental health services provided psychosocial and counselling services for over 10,300 individuals.