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 Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora