Swiss president visits Baqa’a refugee camp
5 October 2010
A highlight of the visit of the Swiss President to Jordan included a field trip to Baqa’a refugee camp, which accommodates approximately 100,000 Palestine refugees and was established in 1968 following the Arab-Israeli war.
The President of the Swiss Confederation, H.E. Doris Leuthard, accompanied by a delegation including senior government officials, the Swiss Ambassador to Jordan and the Regional Director of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), was received by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, and the Director General of the Department of Palestinian Affairs, Wajeeh Azaizeh.
The official delegation met with children from the school parliament and with women representing the UNRWA Women’s Programme Centre. It also visited three families in the camp.
While welcoming the Swiss President, the Director General of DPA, Wajeeh Azayzeh, highlighted the Jordanian government’s commitment and support to Palestine refugees in Baqa’a as well as other areas in the Kingdom.
UNRWA Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi, expressed his gratitude to President Leuthard for Switzerland’s longstanding support to UNRWA, whose mandate is to improve the life of about 4.8 million Palestine refugees in the region, two million of whom are registered with UNRWA in Jordan. Mr Grandi stressed UNRWA’s critical financial situation, which continues to depend on the generosity of donors such as Switzerland, voicing his hope that the Agency will be in a position to bridge a funding gap of about US$80 million in 2010, in order to implement its core programmes in the field of education, health and relief.
Switzerland supports UNRWA with an annual contribution of US$ 14 million, which includes contributions to the Agency’s General Fund, financing for specific projects and the provision of Swiss technical experts for UNRWA activities throughout the region.
“Switzerland’s commitment to supporting UNRWA in fulfilling its important mandate is our most longstanding humanitarian programme. Switzerland has been a keen supporter of UNRWA since its very foundation,” affirmed the Swiss President. She recognised the important role of UNRWA as an agent of peace and human development in the Middle East. The Swiss President also praised the host countries’ role, highlighting Jordan for having welcomed Palestine refugees so generously. Aware of the endeavours that Jordan is facing, the President emphasised the will of Switzerland to continuously support the Jordanian government.
President Leuthard met with 20 girls and boys representing student parliaments from the 16 schools in Baqa’a camp, who shared their life experiences and future aspirations, and representatives from the Women’s Programme Centre, who talked about their efforts to enhance the socio-economic conditions of women in the camp. The field trip included visits to three refugee families in their homes, where the President learned about the efforts exerted by the Jordanian government and UNRWA to improve infrastructure and refugee shelters in the 10 refugee camps in the Kingdom.
At the end of the visit, the Swiss President reiterated “continued Swiss support to UNRWA activities while seeking to foster strong partnerships between host countries, donor countries and UNRWA, by encouraging and facilitating tripartite initiatives”.
UNRWA provides assistance and protection to Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. The Agency’s core budget for 2010 and 2011 stands at USD 1.23 billion. In 2009, emergency appeals for the West Bank and Gaza amounted to USD 456.7 million, with an additional USD 370.7 million required for emergency and reconstruction activities in Nahr el Bared, Lebanon.
For more information, please contact:
Mr Matar Saqer, Public Information Officer, UNRWA: + 962 79 5605553
Mr Cyril Prissette, Regional Programme Manager, SDC: +962 79 9100178