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Spanish Foreign Minister visits Jordan, renews support to UNRWA during COVID-19 pandemic

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union (EU) and Cooperation of Spain, H.E Ms. Arancha González Laya, paid a landmark visit to a health centre and school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Nuzha area located north of Amman, Jordan.

H.E Laya received an on-site briefing about the situation of Palestine refugees in Jordan and the response of UNRWA during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was accompanied by the Spanish Ambassador to Jordan, H.E Aránzazu Bañón Dávalos, Director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, H.E. Mr. Magdy Esteban Martínez Solimán, UNRWA Commissioner-General, Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Jordan, Ms. Marta Lorenzo.

The Commissioner-General briefed the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the Agency’s health and education programmes and services provided to refugees. He described the way UNRWA switched its operations to be able to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, continue all its services and protect its staff and beneficiaries.

“Supporting Palestine refugees and UNRWA has always been a priority for Spain, said the foreign minister. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the most vulnerable communities calls for increased solidarity. Instead of allowing inequalities to grow, Spain is committed to supporting multilateral action that can maintain the access of Palestine refugees to services.”

The Nuzha health centre provides primary health care to nearly 53,000 people and covers a wide range of services, such as maternal and child health care, treatment of chronic diseases, as well as mental and psychosocial care. Because of COVID-19, the UNRWA Department of Health adapted a new method of delivering health services to refugees by delivering non-communicable diseases to refugees’ doorstep during the full lockdowns, activating hotlines to respond to beneficiaries’ inquiries, creating a triage room for beneficiaries who are having any coronavirus symptoms in order to protect other refugees from being infected.

The Agency uses a telemedicine service tool to provide quality and timely health-care services while avoiding unnecessary visits to health centres, thus contributing to preventing the crowding in the health-care facilities.

During her visit to Nuzha Elementary Girls’ School, Ms. Laya received a briefing about the UNRWA education programme, learned more about the procedures followed inside the schools and looked over the system being tracked in regards to the distance learning for UNRWA students, especially in light of the rapid increase in coronavirus cases and the closure of several UNRWA schools in the Kingdom.

“I salute Spain for being a consistent donor and supporter to UNRWA, both nationally and at the level of provinces,” said Mr. Lazzarini. “Such long-term solid commitment gives hope to Palestine refugees in the midst of regional and global changes.

Background Information:

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.