UNRWA Commissioner-General makes second official visit to Syria this year – UNRWA press release


09 August 2016

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl visited Syria from 6 to 8 August, meeting with Palestine refugees, UNRWA staff and government officials.

The Commissioner-General obtained a wide range of impressions of the safety and protection concerns of Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff at a time when the armed conflict in Syria is continuing to place in grave danger civilians in Aleppo, in Khan Eshieh, in the Yarmouk-Yalda area, and in parts of Dera’a governorate.  An extreme example of the high risks to which civilians are exposed was the atrocity committed by an armed group which callously murdered a Palestinian child in Aleppo on 20 July 2016, which UNRWA strongly condemns. 

“International humanitarian law and the obligation to respect and protect civilians in Syria, including Palestine refugees, must go beyond reminders in statements. They need to be practically implemented, to save lives and protect dignity,” said Mr. Krähenbühl. He added, “It is imperative that the extraordinary trauma inflicted by so many civilian deaths and injuries be brought to an end as part of a political resolution of this conflict.” 

In a town hall meeting, Damascus-based UNRWA staff shared their preoccupations with the Commissioner-General. Mr. Krähenbühl expressed deep appreciation for the extraordinary contributions of UNRWA staff in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Latakia and Dera'a and the sacrifices they continue to make to serve Palestine refugees in spite of the risks and stresses of the armed conflict environment.

He asked staff to sustain their dedication for the long term in the interests of Palestine refugees.

The Commissioner-General attended the opening of an Education Conference held annually in UNRWA’s Syria Office. In his address to teachers and education staff from UNRWA’s Offices across Syria, Mr.  Krähenbühl applauded the perseverance of UNRWA education staff in maintaining this vital service in the face of immense challenges, and for continuing to strive to improve the quality of education. He reserved special praise for the development in UNRWA Syria of pioneering Education in Emergencies initiatives that are now adopted by UNRWA’s partners and globally recognized.

The Commissioner-General also noted with appreciation that 55 school buildings have been made available by the government for use by Palestine refugee children. In view of the number of UNRWA schools that have been rendered inaccessible or were damaged during the war, this support has been very important for the continuation of UNRWA’s crucial education program.

Mr. Krähenbühl also met and held discussions with students from UNRWA school parliaments. Following a wide-ranging exchange of views and ideas with the students, the Commissioner-General declared, “The courage and resilience of Palestine refugee children will always be a source of inspiration to me. UNRWA’s ultimate duty remains to protect Palestinian children, to nurture their talents, and to help them realize their potential”. 

The Commissioner-General met with HE Mr. Waleed Al Moualem, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates; Dr. Faisal Miqdad, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates; Mrs. Rima al-Qadiri, the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor; and Mr. Ali Mustafa, Director-General of the General Administration for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR). In these meetings, Mr. Krähenbühl recognized the support given to UNRWA’s operations in Syria and the improvements in the facilitation of humanitarian access to certain Palestine refugee communities. He called for steps to be taken to strengthen the protection of Palestine refugees, particularly in Aleppo, Khan Eshieh and the Yarmouk-Yalda area, and to facilitate UNRWA’s access to those most in need. He also appealed for protection and respect for UNRWA staff, who daily face significant risks in the course of their work. 


UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall,  projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 74 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

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

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