Swedish State Secretary for International Development Cooperation, Ms. Janine Alm Ericson paid a landmark visit to a school and a health centre run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Souf refugee camp, Jordan.
Ms. Ericson was accompanied by the Director-General of the Swedish International Development Agency Ms. Carin Jämtin, the Ambassador of Sweden to Jordan H.E. Ms. Alexandra Sofia Rydmark, the Director-General of the Department of Palestinian Affairs H.E. Eng. Rafiq Khirfan and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Jordan Ms. Marta Lorenzo.
At the UNRWA Souf Girls School, the delegation received a briefing about the situation of Palestine refugees in Jordan and across the region. They were also briefed about UNRWA operations in education, health, relief and social services as well as cross-cutting priorities and specific vulnerabilities of ex-Gazans and Palestine refugees who fled from Syria.
Further, the visit highlighted the Agency’s adaptation of operations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and as well as UNRWA opportunities and priorities to better address needs of Palestine refugees this year.
The delegation also had an opportunity to meet Palestine refugee youth studying in UNRWA vocational training centres (VTC). Many shared their experiences and the challenges of learning during the pandemic.
At the UNRWA Souf Health Centre, the delegation was introduced to the way the Agency has adjusted delivery of its primary health services during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure continued access to health care for all Palestine refugees, while also supporting national efforts in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The delegation also listened to the progress of the government-led COVID-19 vaccination campaign conducted
in three other UNRWA health centres designated by Jordan’s Ministry of Health, as part of the country’s policy on providing equitable vaccines to all.
The visit was concluded by visiting Palestine refugee families residing in Souf refugee camp, where the delegation listened to their living situation and negative impact brought by the COVID-19 pandemic on their socioeconomic situation and how they were supported by UNRWA.
“The difficult situation for the Palestinian people has become even worse during the last year. The pandemic and in some of its fields of operation increasing violence, as well as insufficient funding have made UNRWA’s work more difficult than ever,” said Ms. Ericson. “Despite this, UNRWA has managed to deliver important services to the Palestine refugees. Sweden is a strong political and financial supporter of UNRWA and the rights of Palestine refugees. Later this year, Jordan and Sweden will host an international conference to take important steps towards the sustainable funding of UNRWA. The international community needs to come together to back the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people,” Ms. Ericson added.
Marta Lorenzo, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Jordan said “Sweden is one of the top supporters of Palestine refugees for the past 70 years. Their contribution during emergencies and amid a global pandemic enabled the agency to continue assisting refugees especially those who fled from Syria and have no other alternative source of aid but UNRWA, to meet their needs with dignity”. She added” Today the support is more needed than ever, as refugees’ numbers and daily requirements are in constant increase. And their lives are getting harder because of COVID-19.”
Sweden is one of the Agency’s top donors, providing critical financial and political support since 1951. In 2021, the Government of Sweden has provided over US$ 50 million in unearmarked support to the Programme Budget and Emergency Appeals and have recently pledged an additional US$ 1.2 million to the oPt Crisis Flash Appeal.
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 programmes 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 5.7 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem 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.