On International Human Rights Day, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) urges the international community to stand up for the human rights of Palestine refugees as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and turn their commitment into action to support them as per the Agency’s mandate.
“Palestine refugees must not be forgotten, especially in the middle of a global health pandemic that turned into an acute socio-economic pandemic, said the UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. The Palestine refugee community, consisting of over 5.7 million children, women and men, who have already been living in dire conditions for decades, is being hit unimaginably hard. This is a time of solidarity and support.”
UNRWA is the main provider of essential humanitarian assistance and critical services, such as health and education, to this vulnerable community in a volatile region. Its frontline staff have worked tirelessly to provide lifelines, including health and psychosocial care, cash assistance, food baskets, hotlines for violence survivors, and remote education to over half a million children, in full conformance with COVID-19 guidelines. The Agency pays tribute to its staff who have made this possible.
The Agency is extremely concerned at the increasing number and severity of human rights violations as a byproduct of COVID-19 and limitations on movement. This includes forced evictions and displacement despite lockdowns, rising unemployment rates, severe food insecurity, increasing gender-based violence (GBV), lack of access to available lifesaving medical treatments, and a rising mental health crisis.
Most of the refugees the Agency serves, including children, persons with disabilities and older persons, are not able to absorb the economic, social and medical shocks created by this global pandemic within a pre-existing humanitarian and conflict environment. Devastating consequences to their physical, social and economic wellbeing, with most already living below the poverty line, will continue to materialize if the international community does not act now.
“The overwhelming political support that the mandate of UNRWA receives is not matched by sufficient resources that enable its implementation,” said Mr. Lazzarini. The Agency, therefore, reiterates on this International Human Rights Day, which also marks the conclusion of 16 Days of Activism on GBV, its strong call for funding to UN Member States so that Palestine refugees at risk do not get left behind in a post COVID-19 world.