Refugee Stories

UNRWA reforms ensure assistance reaches the most vulnerable

Mohammed Sulaiman Abadan is a Palestine refugee living in Jabalia camp, with his wife, four sons and two daughters. Jabalia is home to around 107,000 refugees and is the largest and most densely crowded camp in the Gaza Strip.

Prior to the closure of the strip in 2000 most refugees in the camp worked as labourers in Israel or in local agriculture. Abadan had a job as a chef assistant in Tel Aviv, earning $900 a month.

The closure of Gaza put an end to Abadan’s steady income and, like many other Gazan refugees, he was plunged into poverty. He and his family became dependent on charitable assistance, which was often erratic and only provided for the very basic needs of his family.

Abadan now benefits from UNRWA’s newly reformed Special Hardship Case (SHC) programme, which from 2009 will be renamed the ‘Social Safety Net’ programme, and aims to ensure that relief and social services reach the most vulnerable refugees. The European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) is one of the largest contributors to UNRWA’s programme, providing €15 million for food assistance in 2008.

Under the reformed programme, as well as each family member receiving on a quarterly basis $10 in cash assistance along with a food basket, they also receive an additional family allowance, which allows vulnerable families the flexibility to make purchases according to their needs, purchase fresh food, support local suppliers and most importantly, meet minimum basic nutritional requirements.The reformed SHC programme also uses new methods to identify those in abject poverty to ensure that services are targeted towards the neediest beneficiaries, the abject poor

Abadan was previously registered as a special hardship case and received basic food commodities. He was pleased to be registered but explained that the aid received was not enough: "From that time (since registering as an SHC) until now, we were living on the assistance of UNRWA rations, but it was not enough. We needed other requirements for the house and children."

Abadan now receives greater assistance under the reformed programme, "This cash assistance from UNRWA has significantly improved our living conditions. With the money we can afford other things we need, such as clothes, food and things for the house, which we couldn’t afford before. Some good changes have occurred in our life."

The programme has meant that Abadan has been able to repair his roof, which previously let in the rains in winter. Furthermore, Mohammed has been able to pay his debts and to obtain medical treatment for his son.

Since 2000 to date, DG ECHO will have provided around EUR 407 million in aid for the most vulnerable Palestinians in the Occupied Territory, financing not only emergency job creation programmes, but also food aid and food security, primary and emergency health assistance, access to quality water and psychosocial care, as well as protection services.