Archive for the 'UNRWA' Category

Civilians in Yarmouk facing starvation and dehydration, UNRWA deplores inhumane deprivation

UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness
Press Statement

Palestinian refugees living in active conflict areas in Syria such as Yarmouk, Khan Eshieh and the Dera’a surroundings, face brutal hardships. Photo: UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammed

Palestinian refugees living in active conflict areas in Syria such as Yarmouk, Khan Eshieh and the Dera’a surroundings, face brutal hardships. Photo: UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammed

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is greatly alarmed and concerned by the desperate humanitarian consequences being inflicted on civilians since 6 April as a result of armed conflict between extremist armed groups inside Yarmouk, Damascus.

The fighting has been intense, and is taking place in the most densely populated areas of Yarmouk, with the use of heavy weapons, explosive devices and weapons of indiscriminate effect. The impact on civilian life has been devastating. Read more »

UNRWA Condemns Large Scale Home Demolitions in the West Bank

UNRWA West Bank Director, Lance Bartholomuesz

UmAlKhayr (400 x 300)

Jerusalem 6 April 2016

UNRWA condemns today’s large scale home demolitions by the Israeli Authorities in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills. As a result, 31 Palestine refugees, including 16 children, were made homeless. This community has endured several rounds of demolitions and often faced harassment from the nearby illegal settlement of Karmel.

“I am appalled. Looking in the eyes of a young Bedouin boy in a red shirt standing amongst the crumpled ruins of his demolished home, how can anyone justify this? ” stated Lance Bartholomeusz, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank.

Already this year, over 700 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli demolitions in the West Bank. This figure is approaching the total number of displaced for all of 2015.

UNRWA is gravely concerned about demolitions in violation of international law. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention destruction of private property is prohibited. As Occupying Power, Israel is obliged to administer the occupied territory for the welfare of the protected Palestinian population.

As the UN has said repeatedly, these demolitions must stop.

UN sustains two weeks of humanitarian access to besieged, hard to reach civilians in Damascus

Press Release

UN concerned about 20,000 civilians in southern Syria, demands access. (Photo:

UN concerned about 20,000 civilians in southern Syria, demands access. (Photo:

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness reported today:

With the completion of humanitarian missions this week, UNRWA has been able to sustain two weeks of humanitarian access to besieged and hard to reach communities in the Syrian capital, Damascus. We were able to resume operations in the Damascus suburb of Yalda on February 14 for the first time in over six months, distributing 5,700 food parcels to families from the besieged Palestine refugee camp of Yarmouk, Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham over a 5-day operation. Then From Sunday 21 to Wednesday 24 February, we distributed thermal blankets to Palestine refugees and other civilians from Yarmouk, Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham, from a distribution point in Yalda. A total of 19,160 blankets were distributed to approximately 5,700 families.

Residents had previously reported that blankets were a critical need due to recurring low temperatures during the winter season. Electricity and water have been cut in Yarmouk for the past three years. Repeated clashes and armed violence over the last years have resulted in extensive damages to civilian houses. Refugees reported that their houses do not have windows, and that they have nothing but plastic bags to replace them with, and protect their families from the cold. Read more »

UNRWA concerned for 20,000+ “inaccessible” Palestinian civilians in southern Syria


Few getting in or out of Khan Eshieh

Few getting in or out of Khan Eshieh

UNRWA is concerned about the plight of over twenty thousand civilians in Palestine camps and gatherings in Dera’a governorate in the south of Syria as well as in Khan Eshieh camp, south west of Damascus.

The Agency has not had humanitarian access to these areas in over two years, though limited civilian traffic in and out is permitted.

“In both areas, refugees have been exposed to direct armed conflict, violence and humanitarian deprivation and we need immediate and sustained humanitarian access,” said UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness.

“In Khan Eshieh we estimate that there are about 5,000 civilians and in the inaccessible areas of Dera’a governorate we estimate there are about 17,500 people, including many thousands of children,” he added.

UNRWA distributes more aid in Damascus, calls for increased support

Julie Webb-Pullman

UNRWA carries out a third day of food parcel distribution, Yalda, 15 February, 2016 ©

UNRWA carries out a third day of food parcel distribution, Yalda, 15 February, 2016 ©

As armed violence continues to threaten the lives and safety of Palestine refugees throughout Syria, UNRWA is again appealing to donors to increase their support to the UNRWA Syria Emergency Appeal. More than 95% of Palestine refugees in Syria now rely on UNRWA to meet their daily needs of food, water and healthcare.

Although UNRWA was able to distribute food to besieged and hard to reach civilian populations in Damascus yesterday, a Yarmouk resident said, “The children get sick very frequently from the water. We don’t just need food, we need hospitals and water and electricity.”

The community told UNRWA that apart from food, their greatest needs include winter blankets and clothing, access to clean water and access to healthcare. Read more »


Press Release

YaldaVal1 (400 x 400)

“UNRWA today was able to deliver urgently needed humanitarian supplies to the civilian residents of the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk, Damascus for the first time in nine months,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said on Saturday.

“The camp was taken over by the ISIS group on 1 April last year. Although we did not enter the camp itself, were able to reach the nearby area of Yalda, where nine hundred families from Yarmouk, Yalda and the neighbouring areas of Babila and Beit Saham were provided with a 35kg food parcel. Although some humanitarian assistance has entered these areas since the last UNRWA distribution in June, 2015, humanitarian needs remain acute.” Read more »

UNRWA Launches 2016 Syria Appeal “Critical Palestinians not Forgotten”


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2 February 2016

UNRWA today appealed to donors for US$ 414 million to meet the critical humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in Syria, which is now entering its sixth year. The Agency’s 2016 Emergency Appeal for the Syria Regional Crisis aims to support 450,000 Palestine refugees inside Syria, as well as the 60,000 who have fled to Lebanon and Jordan.

“In the midst of the broader Syrian tragedy, and with just two days to go before the London donors’ conference, it is critical that the plight of the Palestine refugee community is not underestimated or forgotten,” urged UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl.

Palestine refugees have been dramatically affected by the crisis due to their proximity to conflict areas inside Syria, high rates of poverty and the tenuous legal status of those forced to flee to Lebanon and Jordan.

Over 60 per cent of those remaining inside Syria (280,000 people) are internally displaced, and an estimated 95 per cent (430,000) are in need of sustained humanitarian assistance. This includes tens of thousands who are trapped in areas of active conflict, with extremely constrained access to humanitarian assistance. Around 42,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) have fled to Lebanon and 18,000 to Jordan where they face a marginalized and precarious existence. Read more »

An icon two years on begs some unsettling questions

Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesperson

Iconic Yarmouk image (Photo: UNRWA)

Iconic Yarmouk image (Photo: UNRWA)

It is now two years since the iconic photo of thousands of bewildered, besieged civilians in the Palestine refugee camp of Yarmouk, Damascus was taken. Traumatized and drained of all emotion, children, women, the sick, the elderly, the dying waited in the besieged camp for food from UNRWA, the UN agency mandated to bring them aid. It was an image whose graphic power seared itself into the collective memory of our age, as the word “Yarmouk” was added to the appalling lexicon of man’s inhumanity to man. The photo went viral and thus became an icon of Syria’s pitiless conflict.

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon was later to describe Yarmouk as akin to the lower regions of hell; a refugee camp that had become a death camp. Yarmouk was once home to some 150,000 Palestinians. Each has a humanity, an individual dignity that must be recognized, respected and nurtured.

Yet two years on, as peace talks begin in Geneva and just days before the London conference on Syria, this haunting image begs some discomfiting questions. Where are the individuals now, whose faces stare compelling out at us? Are they alive or dead? Did they become part of a lost generation? Were they left behind? The majority are Palestinians yet is the plight of this marginalized community being overlooked, dwarfed by the sheer enormity of the Syrian tragedy?

We owe it to each and every individual in that photo, to ourselves and to future generations to find answers to these questions. Without them, the stain that is Yarmouk will forever be on the conscience of humanity.

UNRWA condemns forcible transfer, demolition of Palestine Refugee Bedouin homes; decries desperate humanitarian consequences

Press Release

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Jerusalem 7 January, 2016 Director of UNRWA Operations West Bank, Felipe Sanchez, has condemned the demolition of Bedouin homes in the West Bank by the Israeli authorities. “The humanitarian consequences of this destruction of property are grave and I am seriously concerned, particularly about the children who are now homeless”, said Sanchez.

The demolitions were carried out on the morning of 6 January 2016 by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) in the vulnerable community of Abu Nwar, in Area C near East Jerusalem. In the midst of the winter, a total of five residential structures were demolished, leaving 26 refugees, including 17 children, displaced and without a home. Read more »

UNRWA calls for political action, accountability to stem current spiral of violence, fear

UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness

UNRWA calls for political action and accountability to stem the current spiral of violence and fear;
highlights lack of hope amongst Palestinian youth

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UNRWA is deeply alarmed by the escalating violence and widespread loss of civilian life in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel. Only robust political action can prevent the further escalation of a situation that is affecting Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

In Gaza a total of 11 Palestinians, among them refugees, have reportedly been killed and at least 186 injured. Nine people, including three children were reportedly killed during demonstrations in Gaza and two people – a pregnant woman and a child – were killed when a house collapsed due to the impact of a nearby Israeli strike. Four people were reportedly injured in the latter incident. In the West Bank, between 1 October and 9 October, UNRWA has recorded 45 incursions by Israeli forces into refugee camps resulting in several refugees being shot dead, including one child. According to preliminary figures, 180 people have reportedly been injured in West Bank refugee camps, including some 20 children. About 50 of them were reportedly injured by live-fire.

We condemn killings and injuries of Palestine refugees such as the tragic case on 5 October, of Abd El Rahman, a 13-year-old ninth grade student at an UNRWA school who was shot dead by Israeli Forces in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp. The initial UNRWA investigation indicates that the child was with a group of friends, next to the UNRWA office after the school day was over and was not posing any threat. Read more »

Typhoid Outbreak in Yarmouk, more suspected cases

Press Release

A child waits outside the UNRWA health point in Yalda ©UNRWA, 2015

A child waits outside the UNRWA health point in Yalda ©UNRWA, 2015

UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness said on Wednesday that the vulnerability of civilians in Yarmouk remains of the highest severity, as new cases of typhoid are diagnosed.

“Our health teams in Syria are finding increasing evidence of a typhoid outbreak among civilians from Yarmouk, in Damascus. Today we saw 320 patients and among them were three suspected cases of typhoid. This brings the total figure of suspected cases to 90. That is 90 too many,” he said.

UNRWA conducted humanitarian operations in Yalda on 23 September, providing vital healthcare to civilians displaced from Yarmouk and host communities. Their report follows: Read more »

UNRWA: Typhoid and severe malnutrition among Yarmouk civilians

Situation Report – Yarmouk

Two infants at the UNRWA medical point in Yalda, 10 September, 2015 ©UNRWA

Two infants at the UNRWA medical point in Yalda, 10 September, 2015 ©UNRWA

Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesperson, today reported that the number of civilians affected by the outbreak of typhoid among civilians from Yarmouk continues to grow, as UNRWA teams continued to conduct humanitarian operations in Yalda providing vital healthcare to civilians displaced from Yarmouk and host communities.

“Today we saw another five suspected cases. In addition, our medical teams in Yalda, adjacent to Yarmouk are seeing cases of malnutrition and severe malnutrition. While encouraged by the limited humanitarian access we are being granted we remain gravely concerned about the civilian population of the camp,” he said. Read more »

UNRWA expresses deep gratitude for host government exemplary support in addressing its financial crisis


UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl has expressed his deep gratitude for the exemplary support, commitment and understanding from host country governments as UNRWA has strived to close its core budget deficit in recent months.

Particular recognition and praise goes to the Government of Jordan – including the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister – for robust support, personal outreach and joint fundraising efforts.

Special appreciation is expressed to the President and Prime Minister of the State of Palestine, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, including the Department of Refugee Affairs for strong solidarity, outreach and dialogue; and to the Prime Minister of Lebanon for valued support and welcome initiatives.

UNRWA also appreciates the dialogue it had with the Director of the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees in Syria regarding the Agency’s financial crisis. Read more »

Time is running out: typhoid among Yarmouk civilians triples in three days

by Julie Webb-Pullman

UNRWA medical teams treating civilians from Yarmouk where typhoid cases have tripled in three days

UNRWA medical teams treating civilians from Yarmouk where typhoid cases have tripled in three days

UNRWA is fighting against time to contain a typhoid outbreak in Yarmouk camp, Damascus, where data analysed this week has shown the number of cases has tripled since the first were identified on August 18, 2015.

The critical situation is compounded by UNRWA’s lack of access to Yarmouk since 28 March: the data was collected from 500 patients presenting to clinics in the nearby Yalda district of Damascus, most of whom were residents of Yarmouk.

“We are gravely concerned that this is the tip of the iceberg and that the increase in figures reflects an appalling public health crisis inside Yarmouk camp itself,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness.

“We are administering antibiotics, distributing water purifying tablets and giving appropriate health education guidance. However, the situation demands a major public health intervention to improve the water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure of the camp.” Read more »

PFLP: UNRWA crisis is being manufactured to liquidate refugees’ rights

Press Release
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

UNRWA protest

UNRWA protest

The UN agency for the management and operation of services to refugees in the camps, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Works Agency, is implementing unprecedented measures in its areas of operation: Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. These measures are primarily affecting important services such as education, social services and health care, and are proceeding at an accelerated pace with the adoption of a new set of decisions with an unjust impact on the basic rights of UNRWA workers, under the pretext of a serious financial crisis.

There is a deliberate and systematic creation of this crisis by UNRWA and the “international community,” in order to blackmail the Palestinian people and pressure them to accept political concessions and “solutions,” with the primary goal being the termination of the Agency’s mission through gradual imposition of austerity, and the liquidation of the cause and the rights of Palestinian refugees. This intersects with the frequent propaganda of the Zionist entity and the Zionist movement internationally about the need to end the work of UNRWA around Palestinian refugees and instead transfer responsibility for services to the host countries. These recent actions taken by UNRWA and which are anticipated in coming days form a declaration of war against the Palestinian refugees: Read more »

UNRWA: Gaza Infant Mortality Rate Rises for First Time in 50 Years


Such an increase here is unprecedented in Dr. Seita’s experience working in the Middle East. “Progress in combatting infant mortality doesn’t usually reverse. This seems to be the first time we have seen an increase like this.”

More than a message in a bottle - a dire warning

More than a message in a bottle – a dire warning

Jerusalem, 8 August 2015: The infant mortality rate in Gaza has risen for the first time in five decades, according to an UNRWA study, and UNRWA’s Health Director says the blockade may be contributing to the trend.

Every five years UNRWA conducts a survey of infant mortality across the region, and the 2013 results were released this week.

The number of babies dying before the age of one has consistently gone down over the last decades in Gaza, from 127 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 20.2 in 2008. At the last count, in 2013, it had risen to 22.4 per 1,000 live births.

The rate of neonatal mortality, which is the number of babies that die before four weeks old, has also gone up significantly in Gaza, from 12 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 20.3 in 2013.

“Infant mortality is one of the best indicators for the health of the community,” said Dr. Akihiro Seita, Director of UNRWA’s health program. “It reflects on the mother and child’s health and in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals it is one of the key indicators.”

“The rate”, Dr. Seita said, “had declined quite smoothly over the last decades across the region, including Gaza. So when the 2013 results from Gaza were first uncovered, UNRWA was alarmed by the apparent increase. So we worked with external independent research groups to examine the data, to ensure the increase could be confirmed. That is why it took us so long to release these latest figures“. Read more »

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