News / Middle East

UNRWA Eyes Gaza's Post-Conflict Needs

Palestinian man carries boy past UN-run school that was struck whole sheltering those displaced by Israeli ground offensive, Jebalya northern Gaza, July 30, 2014.
Palestinian man carries boy past UN-run school that was struck whole sheltering those displaced by Israeli ground offensive, Jebalya northern Gaza, July 30, 2014.
Margaret Besheer

United Nations schools in the Gaza Strip have sheltered some 270,000 displaced Palestinians during the current hostilities between Israel and Hamas militants.

At least six schools were recently shelled, leading to dozens of casualties and tensions between the U.N. and Israel. The U.N. has also found rocket caches belonging to armed groups in three of their schools, raising questions about how they got there.

UNRWA, as the agency is known, is one of the largest and oldest U.N. programs. It has operated in the Israeli occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza for 60 years, as well as in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, providing schooling, vocational training, health care and social services to 5 million Palestinians.

UNRWA has a staff of over 30,000 — most of them from the refugee population. In the current conflict, 11 staffers have been killed.

Over 90 percent of UNRWA’s annual budget comes from U.N. member states.  Before the current round of hostilities leveled parts of Gaza, UNRWA had budgeted $1.4 billion for this year and next. That number will now have to be revised to reflect reconstruction needs.

UNRWA’s schools have been in the news recently, because they are housing so many displaced Gazans. As U.N. facilities, they are protected under international humanitarian law as safe zones, but on six occasions they have come under direct fire that killed and wounded civilians.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again expressed his outrage about the attacks this week, saying U.N. shelters must not be combat zones.

"Those who violate this sacred trust must be subject to accountability and justice," he said. "In the most recent case of shelling on a U.N. facility, the Israelis were informed of the coordinates 33 times.”

Israel has said that it never intentionally targets civilians, but it also blames militants for intentionally launching rockets from populated areas, incrasing the risk of attracting return fire that puts civilians in harm's way.

Israel has also criticized UNRWA because rocket caches have been found in three of its schools. U.N. humanitarian operations director John Ging told reporters recently that those three schools had been abandoned due to intense fighting and that the rockets were discovered when staff returned to inspect the buildings.

“In each and every case where schools are under U.N. control, there is a very careful inspection regime to make sure that there is no violations, either by armed people coming in or that there are any arms hidden in that school, and that is done by inspecting the school on an ongoing basis, and particularly when recovering a school that has been abandoned,” he said.

Ging noted that both militants and Israeli forces have occupied abandoned UNRWA buildings in the past, and that weapons have not been found in any building under active U.N. control.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq says since the weapons caches were discovered, UNRWA has tightened security at its empty facilities.

“What we have had to try to do better is make sure that if a building is left vacant, that it won’t be used as a repository for weapons," he said. "So we are trying a series of procedures to make sure all our facilities are appropriately guarded.”

Militants resumed firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip Friday morning as a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire expired. Israel responded with airstrikes.

The resumption of hostilities means UNRWA may have to cope with more displaced Palestinians in need of assistance. The agency has already appealed for $367 million for immediate needs.  

When the conflict does finally stop, UNRWA will be faced with many challenges, including meeting large-scale humanitarian needs. Its staff will also have to relocate the thousands of Palestinians currently sheltering in UNRWA schools so the buildings can be readied for the nearly quarter-million students the agency teaches during the academic year.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Al from: North Carolina
August 09, 2014 1:58 PM
It is hard to believe that taxpayers from the Untied States will be rebuilding schools in Gaza. The Hams are completely responsible for this war on Israel. This is just another reason to get the U.N. out of our lives and pocketbooks.


by: Martina S. from: UN
August 09, 2014 10:37 AM
UNRWA is a corrupt organization that must be dissolved. We are funding a terrorist organization - its illegal for US to fund a terrorist organization..!! Hamas, Fatah, ISIL, MB, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaida, these are the same depravity - it is EVIL. you can not soft focus it...
We must confront it, defeat it and discredit it. We also know that this Islamic filth has metastasized into Europe through the agency of UNRWA. UNRWA is a clear and present danger to your children - it is Ebola.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid