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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More