Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Gaza students get supplies after Dh5.5 million donation by UAE foundation

UNRWA has faced years of funding shortfalls and regularly warns that without more aid education programmes could be cut

A Palestinian boy during the dance training in Al Nusairat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. AP
A Palestinian boy during the dance training in Al Nusairat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. AP

The UAE’s Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation has donated millions to the UN agency for Palestinians to provide school supplies to thousands of young refugees in Gaza, the body announced on Sunday.

The donation of Dh5.5 million ($1.5 million) provides school supplies for 3,400 Palestinian pupils in northern Gaza as part of a drive the foundation said aimed to safeguard the right to education for refugees in Palestine.

The United Nations Refugee Works Agency has faced years of funding shortfalls as donations from the international community has declined in recent years. Schools and colleges are among the vital services that the agency warns could face closure if more donations are not forthcoming.

For years, Israel has campaigned to close the body but Palestinians say it is a vital lifeline for millions displaced by the creation of the Israeli state and ending it would be disastrous for the right of return, a central tenant of a future two-state solution. The agency has faced increased pressure under the administration of US President Donald Trump who slashed American donations to the body as he backed Israel’s arguments against UNRWA.

But countries on Friday voted overwhelmingly to renew the mandate of the UN body for another three years, ending a campaign by the US to shutter the body.

Only the US and Israel voted against the bill backed by 170 states at the UN to renew the mandate. Seven nations abstained.

“Despite bullying, blackmail and pressure they stood by UNRWA,” said Riyad Al Mansour, Ambassador for Palestine to the UN, thanking countries for resisting US lobbying against the agency and its donors.

The agency says it needs $1.2-billion annually to fully fund operations.

The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation said the gesture was on the orders of President Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

We are grateful for the long-lasting and continuing support of the Khalifa bin Zayed Foundation to the Agency’s Education programme,” said Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Matthias Schmale. “This donation from Khalifa Foundation and the Government of the UAE will have a direct positive impact on education and learning experiences for thousands of Palestine refugees, who successfully started a new school year in Gaza a few weeks ago."

Mohammad Haji Al Khoori, Director-General of Khalifa Foundation, said the donation will undoubtedly contribute to alleviating the heavy burden on students and their families in Gaza and will help the educational institutions there to continue to provide their services.

He said the foundation hopes to provide school students with stationery, tools and equipment needed, as well as to reinforce programs that support the educational process and its continuation in light of the conditions experienced by students in the Gaza Strip.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has been dire since the start of the now 12-year Israeli blockade on the enclave brought in after Hamas ascended to power and an internal civil war split the group from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

The entrance to basic goods and supplies is severely restricted by Israeli authorities.

The situation was exacerbated by the 2014 Gaza war that left much of the country in ruins. Years later, much is still to be rebuilt as Israel restricts the import of building supplies.

Recent rounds of clashes between Hamas and Israel have also caused numerous civilian and damage to the small enclave.

UNRWA provides a range of critical services to some 5.5 million Palestinian refugees registered with the Agency across its five fields of operation, including Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Its services include education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection, microfinance, and emergency relief.

Updated: November 17, 2019 06:13 PM

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