26 January 2020, Gaza Strip – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) inaugurated the Beit Lahia playground in the Gaza Strip, with funding from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The playground is expected to host around 12,000 spectators.

During his speech, Mr Ibrahim Abu Saleem, Deputy Head of the Palestinian Football Association thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for supporting the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, through the rehabilitation of sports facilities. He added “the rehabilitation of sports facilities improved the ability of Palestinian youth to watch and enjoy sport matches. It also increased the play hours. We thank our partners UNDP and UNRWA for the great implementation of the project in the highest quality.”

The rehabilitation of the Biet Lahia playground is part of the “Rehabilitation and Furnishing of Six Playgrounds in the Gaza Strip” project, implemented by UNDP’s programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People, in partnership with UNRWA.  Serving the North Gaza communities of around 390,000 people, the Beit Lahia playground improvements included the construction of the western and northern grandstands with capacity of 1,800 audience, rehabilitation of the existing grandstands, installation of stadium lighting system, in addition to the furnishing and equipping of the playground.

“We are excited to be partnering with UNDP in support of a common goal; supporting the Palestinian community, and in particular sports facilities for young women and men in Gaza. The message of our joint effort for opening new sports facility is that connections made through sport, through both its simplicity and universal appeal, can help build better understanding and friendship by inspiring people of all nations with the promise of a bright, positive future. Our gratitude is very high for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Fund for Development for their continuous trust in us to build better for the neediest Palestinian in Gaza”, said Trond Jensen, UNRWA Senior Deputy Director in Gaza.

The intervention has increased the capacity of the playground to receive a total of 12,000 spectators who can enjoy matches while being well-seated and adequately protected from rain and sun. Built to international standards, the playground can now host major tournaments, potentially even regional and international ones.

During the ceremony, Ms Chitose Noguchi, Head of UNDP Gaza office said: “Living under blockade and hostilities, young women and men in Gaza are not able to freely participate in the sports they love in a safe environment.  Family and friends are not able to cheer them on in a secure facility. With the generous support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the Saudi Fund for Development, and in cooperation with UNRWA, UNDP in partnership with the Palestinian Football Association, was able to rehabilitate and furnish six playgrounds in the Gaza Strip enabling more than 600,000 youth and sports lovers to participate in sports”.

The Saudi Fund for Development has contributed over US$ 81.5 million to UNDP through UNRWA in Gaza. The support provided restored homes for 13,194 families, three non-governmental schools, six playgrounds and one cultural centr