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Tuesday, December 4, 2012
UNRWA Commissioner-General lists three demands for Syria during visit

Three primary demands:
1. More must be done by all sides to ensure protection for Palestine
refugees and other civilians from the effects of the Syria conflict.
2. The neutrality of UN and UNRWA premises must be respected
3. Humanitarian access must be assured and facilitated by all parties.

UNRWA’s Commissioner-General Visits Syria
04 December 2012
Syria

Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi today visited UNRWA operations in Syria,
where some 3,700 staff continue to offer education, health and social
safety-net services to over 500,000 Palestine refugees, while also
responding to the humanitarian needs arising from the armed conflict in
Syria.

In Yarmouk, at UNRWA’s Engaging Youth Centre, the Commissioner-General
observed ongoing activities under the Engaging Youth Project, noting that
the Project continues to be appreciated by the community. In an open
discussion with a group of young Palestine refugees, he heard first-hand
testimonies of the devastating social and human impact of the Syria conflict
and received appeals for the international community to redouble efforts to
achieve a cessation of hostilities. While emphasizing the need for UNRWA to
maintain its operational presence in Syria, the youth asked the Agency to do
more to assist and protect the refugees. Speaking to the refugees, Grandi
said “I stress the need for all Palestinians to maintain their neutrality
and I commend young Palestine refugees on their efforts to help the
community and support families in need.”

The Commissioner-General observed the registration process for Palestine
refugees seeking humanitarian assistance as a result of the Syria conflict.
He toured UNRWA schools that are continuing to operate in Yarmouk and
visited an UNRWA school building which is serving as temporary accommodation
for Syrians and Palestinians who have left their homes in search of safety.
In his interactions with the displaced people, he heard first-hand
descriptions of the hardships and sense of dislocation they endure and heard
direct appeals for more humanitarian assistance to be provided by UN
agencies in Syria.

The Commissioner-General discussed extensively with UNRWA staff the
operational challenges imposed by the armed conflict in Syria and ways in
which their efforts can be effectively supported. As UNRWA staff live among
the Palestinian communities they serve, they also face the risks of death
and injury, and they experience displacement and the severe trauma of the
conflict environment. UNRWA staff are also affected by the economic impact
of the conflict. The sharing of these experiences gave the
Commissioner-General a personal sense of the courage and commitment of UNRWA
staff. He expressed his appreciation and gratitude and encouraged staff to
maintain their exemplary sense of duty. He expressed sorrow that UNRWA staff
were among the casualties of the Syria conflict.

While in Yarmouk, Commissioner-General Grandi met the families of Jihad
Suleiman and Rihab Awadallah, two of the five UNRWA staff who lost their
lives in the conflict. He expressed his condolences and thanked the bereaved
families for the contributions Mr. Suleiman and Dr. Awadallah made to
educating Palestine refugee children and to UNRWA’s work generally.

The Commissioner-General assured staff and refugees that in his interactions
with government and other interlocutors in Damascus and internationally, he
will continue to reiterate three primary demands: that more must be done by
all sides to ensure protection for Palestine refugees and other civilians
from the effects of the Syria conflict; that the neutrality of UN and UNRWA
premises must be respected; and that humanitarian access must be assured and
facilitated by all parties.

-- End --

Background information:

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949
and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some
5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine
refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve
their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their
plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social
services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency
assistance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for
services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need,
and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund, supporting
UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions,
has begun each year with a large projected deficit.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724
s.mshasha@unrwa.org

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