Gwyn Lewis, Director of UNRWA Operations in the west bank told PNN that she believes it is very important for Palestinians in general, and refugees in particular, to receive the vaccine against the Coronavirus, explaining that UNRWA is working with a number of international bodies, including the World Health Organization and UNICEF, as well as the Palestinian government, in order to challenge the obstacles and provide the vaccine to Palestinians. She also indicated that UNRWA is working with the Kovacs group as well to achieve this goal.
My visit to Bethlehem to discuss with the service committees the developments of Corona’s situation
During an exclusive interview with the editor in chief of Palestine News Network “PNN”, Munjed Jaduo Gwyn said “: What UNRWA is currently seeking is to provide the vaccine and follow the directions of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in providing it to the most vulnerable groups to infection, especially those over seventy, and medical staff working in the field, to serve the camps and the Palestinian community.
Gwyn said in response to a question about the UNRWA ignores Palestinian refugees’ demands on providing the vaccine: “it is unfair to say that UNRWA ignores the demands of the refugees because we are working beyond our capacity and communicate with everyone in order to achieve this goal, I hope that everyone understands that we are pressing to get the vaccine for Palestine and that we are working and exerting efforts to the maximum extent to achieve this goal.
She added:” I’m in Bethlehem to meet with the popular services committees and activities in the camps to clarify the efforts of the UNRWA to help and to discuss the necessary needs and priorities to fight Coronavirus, especially after recording an increase in the level of infections in the camps, where more than 700 new infections were recorded in recent days and how UNRWA can help.
In light of the Corona pandemic, the economic situation was difficult and dramatic for everyone, and UNRWA provided and met many of the needs of Palestinian families in the camps, especially those that were infected by the virus, where food parcels, sterilization, and protection against the virus were provided, Gwyn said.
She also indicated that the UN agency followed great preventive measures in Schools that were sterilized frequently, classes were divided into two parts, and support tools were provided for e-learning, in addition, teachers were increased. Work was also done to send medicines to patients with chronic diseases to their homes through UNRWA staff in order to enhance the culture of social distancing, and UNRWA sought to provide everything that could be provided. The necessary needs in light of this pandemic.
Regarding the accusations issued by the Popular Committees Services, factions, and civil Institutions in the refugee camps to UNRWA of relinquishing its responsibility as stipulated in international resolutions, Gwyn said that we have done a lot, stressing that it is unfair to criticize and say that the UNRWA Agency has abandoned its duties or that it does not carry out its duties towards the refugees.
The director of UNRWA Operations in the west bank said that the attention must be directed to actions like emergency aid, education services, camp hygiene, health services, sterilization services, and emergency aid for Corona victims, explaining that more can be done because we are now living in complex conditions.
It is unfair to accuse us of obeying US demands, and we will continue our services
In response to PNN question about the refugees’ accusations to UNRWA of obeying the plans of the United States and Israel to liquidate and end the refugee issue, the Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank said that, through her experience after working as a director in the international organization in Lebanon and Palestine, UNRWA is doing everything it can to maintain the services, but unfortunately, in recent years the financial support has been on a continuous decline, but UNRWA has doubled its efforts to obtain support to maintain its services.
She explained that UNRWA is still present after the term of former US President Donald Trump, as the UNRWA continues to support refugee services, calling for not to forget that most of the world countries committed to their obligations and support UNRWA which is something great, and this is something that we should not forget it.
On communication between the new US administration and UNRWA, Gwyn Lewis said that the contacts did not stop with the US administration even during the Trump administration in order to continue seeking support and convincing it of the importance of the humanitarian work that UNRWA does to serve the refugees and to continue forming lobbying to convince them of the importance of supporting the agency. The importance of continuing the relationship and working in this context in the United States.
She indicated that even if UNRWA obtains American support, there will remain a lack of budget of 2021, adding that this budget is devoted to the policies of services such as keeping schools, centers, and health clinics open and providing basic services and that the amount “One billion five hundred million dollars” mentioned in the appeal to the international community are not related to any expenses related to the spread of the COVID 19 virus and its response.
Gwyn said this year, we have not heard yet from the Arab Gulf countries, but we will continue to work with them, and we hope that the policy that has been adopted in recent years will change. She also indicated that the problem of the inability to travel, move and communicate due to the pandemic is another reason for the delay in support and said: “UNRWA has been in existence for the past 72nd and we will continue to stay.”
On a question about the UNRWA stopping protection for Palestinian refugees by trying to stop the IOF daily incursions into camps, Gwyn said that UNRWA is a humanitarian organization and does not have security forces, but at the same time, there is a protection team that follows up all issues in this regard and communicates with the Israeli army to stop its procedures in the camps. And the follow-up, noting that one of the cases that were followed up and addressed was the issue of firing tear gas at Aida camp in Bethlehem, where the protection staff worked for a long time to stop the firing of tear gas and succeeded in reducing these Israeli actions.
She emphasized that there is great work in this field, as she visited yesterday the Sheikh Jarrah area, which is being subjected to a systematic demolition of homes in order to find out what matters there and what UNRWA can as they are part of the United Nations, and it is also important to emphasize that we are a humanitarian institution and we seek to provide protection for our staff and civilians because providing protection is not a political act, so we have worked and working to protect camps and children and prevent attacks on schools and house demolitions because that is human rights and it is part of our work.