The European Union renewed its commitment to support Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon through a EUR 30.6 million contribution from the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the EU Madad Fund. The contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will support Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and coming from Syria. This comes as part of a larger EUR 43.2 million contribution covering support to Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

Beyond funding vital life-saving services, this support addresses the impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) currently residing in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as their host communities, the Palestinian refugees already living in Lebanon and Jordan. The contribution is in line with the Agency’s 2020 Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal and the strategic objectives of the Flash Appeal for the COVID-19 Response.

Palestinian refugees are among those most affected by the conflict in Syria, which has now entered its tenth year. They continue to face great risks and the needs remain huge for those living in their original places of residence, throughout their multiple displacements within Syria or in neighbouring countries. Over 27,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) who have fled to Lebanon because of the conflict remain in the country. The generous contribution of the European Union enables the Agency to provide essential services to PRS in Lebanon, including protection, education and health care. The contribution will also enable UNRWA to provide emergency cash assistance subsidies to cover the basic needs of PR families living in Lebanon and help mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We greatly value the European Union’s outstanding commitment to preserving the dignity and addressing the needs of Palestine refugees,” said Claudio Cordone, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon. “This EU contribution through the EU Madad Fund will allow UNRWA to provide life-saving services and address the immediate needs of Palestine refugees in response to COVID-19. We are proud of this partnership and look forward to developing it further,” he added.

One key area of support from the EU during the COVID-19 crisis continues to be providing PRS and the wider Palestine refugee community with quality, inclusive and equitable education services. In response to the past country-wide school closures, the UNRWA Department of Education developed an online Self-Learning Programme (SLP) which allowed students to study from home, and teachers to provide lessons via online communication tools. Thanks to generous EU funding and support, notably in the areas of communication assistance, and psychosocial support, the SLP has seen many successes, despite the challenging circumstances. As the new school year approaches, UNRWA is preparing different back-to-school scenarios. Palestine refugee children will have access to quality, inclusive and equitable education either through a blended or remote learning approach. During this period, learning assistance and psychosocial support will continue to be provided and parents and teachers will be provided with support to manage remote teaching and learning modalities.

Osama, a student at the UNRWA Houla School in Lebanon describes how remote psychosocial support looks in practice. "When we were at school, we were hand in hand with the PSS programme in every aspect of our day. Now at home, the PSS team still supports us via phone calls, encouraging us to study. Videos sent by school counsellors give us advice about how to protect ourselves during this time. They also encourage us to make time for calling and speaking with family." In addition to wide-reaching awareness sessions, parenting skills sessions and group counselling, over 17,000 students have received care-calls to check in on their wellbeing since March 2020, and over 10,000 students and caregivers have received individual counselling. The European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. Over the past five decades, the partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has evolved, with the EU and its Member States becoming the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees, representing more than half of the overall UNRWA budget since 2019, and a key strategic partner committed to supporting UNRWA in the absence of a just and durable solution to the plight of Palestine refugees.

By NO Comment 5th October 2020

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