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World Refugee Day 2013; Palestinian Refugees 65 years on

This year marked the 65th anniversary of the Palestinian Diaspora in which more than 800,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes. In light of this anniversary, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) revealed that of the 11.6 million Palestinians worldwide, at least more than half (45.7%) are refugees, though the figure is estimated to be much higher, as 5.3 million are currently registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Palestine (UNWRA) yet many remain unregistered and undocumented. Palestinians are considered by some as having the largest and longest-standing refugee population globally and are subsequently in constant need of humanitarian assistance.

A recent survey conducted by the American University of Beirut has highlighted the dire living conditions of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and the toll the living conditions are taking on their overall wellbeing. The survey found that a third of Palestinian refugees had chronic illnesses, whilst nearly two thirds of Palestinian refugees lacked regular access to sources of nutritious food. In addition to the conditions refugees are commonly exposed to, Palestinians in the Gaza strip also face the problem of overcrowding. With 4,583 individuals per square kilometers the Gaza strip is the most overpopulated area of land in the world.

A Muslim Aid spokesperson said: “The dire conditions faced by Palestinian refugees scattered in the Middle East are truly shocking and have shown little sign of improvement. Overcrowding continues to be a defining feature of the refugee camps, further exacerbating risks to their physical and mental health. Legal restrictions mean that Palestinian refugees are also unable to lift themselves out of poverty as they are often confined to specific areas and banned from working in many professions. Furthermore, the recent unrest in the Middle East has affected countries hosting Palestinian refugees, such as in Syria, and subsequently deepening poverty levels, endangering their lives and forcing them to flee violence once again. Muslim Aid calls on those responsible to end the chronic suffering of Palestinian refugees who continue to endure this intolerable hardship.”

59% of Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and 24% in the Gaza strip where Muslim Aid is currently providing humanitarian assistance and development programmes. Muslim Aid has a long history of providing assistance to Palestinian refugees around the world, whilst Muslim Aid’s Rainbow Family Programme provides financial assistance to Palestinian refugee families in Jordan, Lebanon and Gaza, enabling refugee families to send their children to school. The Rainbow Family Programme has many community based projects which benefit thousands more refugees who are not part of the programme. Projects include the Eye Glasses Project which allowed 3,300 children in Gaza to receive eye tests and treatment, with a further 250 children benefitting from refurbished water and sanitation facilities in Al-Islah Kindergarten in Al-Rashidiya camp. Another Muslim Aid initiative, the Dig a Well Programme, provides water and sanitation to Palestinian refugee families in Lebanon.

Notes to editors

· Muslim Aid is a relief and development agency set up in the United Kingdom in 1985 to provide humanitarian assistance to disaster affected countries and to help poor and vulnerable communities overcome poverty. Over the last 27 years, Muslim Aid has delivered services in over 70 countries worldwide. Muslim Aid works with all communities irrespective of faith, ethnic origin or political system. Muslim Aid programmes include emergency relief, capacity building through water, sanitation and health programmes, education and skills training, microfinance and income generation and orphan care. As well as giving practical assistance, Muslim Aid tackles poverty by developing sustainable solutions, advocating for a more just and sustainable future.

· For further information about the work of Muslim Aid and its overseas field offices or the IF Campaign, please visit the Muslim Aid website at www.muslimaid.org to tune in to Muslim Aid TV or go to our Twitter Account Muslim_Aid or contact PR office on (+44) 020 7377 4200; inlia@muslimaid.org or via post on PO Box 3| London | E1 1WP.