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UNRWA Executive Director Philippe Lazarini will visit Syria from 15-19 January 2023, meeting Palestinian refugees and UNRWA officials in Aleppo and Damascus. Lazzarini, along with his UNRWA Director of Syria Affairs Amanya Michael Ebay, engaged with communities in the Nairab, Ein El Tal and Yarmouk camps and met with government officials.
During a visit to Nairab and Ain El Tal camps in Aleppo, young Palestinian refugees studying at UNRWA schools and vocational centers spoke of their desire to learn and find work. Young women and men at the UNRWA Vocational Center wanted courses in English and software and application development to keep up with the 21st century labor market. They all wanted a common workspace with electricity and internet so they could study after school.
Students from UNRWA schools described their efforts to reduce bullying, including raising awareness, encouraging discussion and increasing access to sports and hobbies. They wanted more playgrounds so their peers could engage in sports and play.
“Seeing young people whose families have lost everything could have been just a depressing moment,” said the Commissioner General. “Instead, these girls, boys and young people were expressing themselves with such great energy and drive that they knew how far they could go with a little push. In turn, these children crave opportunities to learn and have fun.They want a better future.”
Discussions with Nairab and representatives of the Palestinian refugee community in Ain El Tal showed the extent and scale of refugee hardship in and around Aleppo. Their demands for very basic needs ranged from milk and diapers for infants to supporting the treatment of cancer patients.
Mr. Lazzarini visited a family in Nairab’s camp. The house is now accessible to my disabled grandmother. The housing renovation support project is implemented in cooperation with the UNDP. He also visited a family at his home in Ain El Tal, which is undergoing minor repairs by UNRWA. In both cases, refugee families expressed great appreciation for having a place to call home. However, both lived in extreme poverty.
During his visit, the Commissioner-General met with Dr. Faisal Miqdad, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Resident Affairs, Mr. Husien Diab, Governor of Aleppo, and the Executive Director of the General Authority for Palestinian and Arab Refugees (GAPAR). Mr Qassem Hussein. He described to government officials the agency’s relentless efforts to mobilize additional donations from donor countries to help respond to urgent needs like the one he witnessed in Syria.
“We were shocked by the level of destruction of houses and UNRWA facilities in several Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. UNRWA facilities must be rehabilitated to serve returning refugees. This is happening in Yarmouk camp thanks to funding from , Spain and Italy: “I am very impressed with the work that has been done to restore two buildings that house a school, a health center and a community center. I would like to express my solidarity with the community and salute their tenacity and strength in a difficult time.
Mr Lazzarini thanked UNRWA in Syria staff for their continued strength and dedication despite the difficult challenges they continue to face.
“I will continue to advocate for Palestinian refugees in Syria and call on donors to enable the restoration of shelters, UNRWA schools and other facilities. “Even in minor cases, making some basic services accessible goes a long way in instilling a sense of dignity and hope in the Palestinian refugee community in Syria.”