Given the increasingly high rates of Covid 19 infection in the West Bank, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is continuing its COVID-19 prevention and awareness campaign. This newest initiative will begin in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem and will be rolled out to all Palestine refugee camps in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The aim is to intensify community outreach efforts and to educate people on measures to limit the transmission of the virus.
The campaign targets the Palestine refugee community across the West Bank and will reach more than xxx people. In cooperation with Community-based Organisations (CBOs) in camps, the campaign activities will engage camp residents through handing out educational leaflets and booklets, as well as pinning posters and other awareness-raising materials on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As part of the campaign, premises and UNRWA installations in the 19 Palestine refugee camps, including mosques, internet cafes, shops, health centers, Camp and Community Services Officers’ offices (CCSOs), and CBOs will be provided with hygiene items.
Promoting a greater understanding of the risks of Covid-19 and the necessary prevention measures comes at a time when Palestine is witnessing an unprecedented and rapid spread of the virus. Since the end of January 2021, an additional 76,456 people tested positive in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the number of active cases has grown significantly. To curb the spread of the virus, the Palestinian Authority has extended restrictive measures in the West Bank and, on 21 March, it launched its vaccination campaign with the first batch of COVAX-supplied vaccines. On top of these efforts, upgrading community engagement and awareness remains a priority to fight COVID-19.
The Director of UNRWA Affairs in the West Bank, Ms. Gwyn Lewis, who was the first to volunteer in the campaign, stressed the importance of continuing the efforts UNRWA began on day one of the pandemic: “A year ago, we started our first efforts to curb the spread of the virus, and we distributed tens of thousands of hygiene materials, cleaning supplies, and delivered food parcels and medicines to the refugee families affected by the virus. Despite all our efforts, people are still getting sick and some people are dying. Preventive measures must be taken particularly in densely populated and overcrowded areas. My concern is that public events and gatherings, including during the upcoming month of Ramadan, may further increase the number of infections.”.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, UNRWA ensured the continuation of services to the Palestine refugees. Sanitation workers are working around the clock to sterilize the camps, social workers continue to communicate with the affected families and listen to the challenges they face. In 2020, UNRWA also distributed food parcels to 19,500 families, benefiting 103,414 Palestine refugees, 65% of whom live within the borders of refugee camps.
UNRWA health centers continued to work non-stop to ensure the provision of health services to patients, while a service was launched to deliver medicines to the homes of patients with non-communicable diseases, as well as pregnant women and elderly patients. Moreover, a toll-free telephone line has been set up to provide free medical advice to patients who are unable to reach the clinics.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability, and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programs and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief, and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection, and microfinance.