In an attempt to deepen public knowledge of World Refugee Day, the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees hosted a series films about refugees Tuesday evening in the Palestinian National Theater in Jerusalem City.
The evening included several short documentaries about refugees in Gaza. The topics of the films included shelling and street fighting, lack of food, the struggle of a young girl to cope with a disability incurred from an Israeli attack, and the poverty afflicting Palestinian refugee families.
Commissioner-General of UNRWA Karen Abu Zaid, Director of the Agency in Gaza John Geng, and Chief UNRWA Information Officer Benvento Jena attended the event.
In her welcoming speech, Abu Zaid commented,
"The World Refugee Day is an opportunity for us to identify and address the refugee issues that are facing the Palestinian people.”
She added, “During the day we want everyone to recognize the diversity of refugees. Whether refugees are in a camp in the Congo or in Jenin, whether they have been there for only two months or for decades, all are important and are in need of international attention.”
She explained that this day is dedicated to honor those persons who were forced to leave their homes, to escape persecution and human rights violations. This day is specifically to honor the ability of those persons to resolve and adapt.
One film that was shown focused on the daily lives of refugee children living in Gaza. Abu Zaid noted that while schools are generally considered to be safe areas for kids, the Israeli killing of three students and wounding of several others during the Intifada has made school children innocent bystanders in the crossfire of the conflict. One little girl’s body was riddled with more than 20 bullets near her southern Gaza Strip Rafah school. The Israeli soldier claimed her school book bag was a bomb.
Abu Zaid added that the relief agency has recently launched an appeal to humanitarian organizations for the delivery of more food aid and for assistance in expanding job opportunities and strengthening of education, health, and social services programs. The agency also called upon Palestinian officials to work to find solutions to the current political and economic crisis in order to ensure a better future for the children of Palestinian refugees.
In conclusion, Abu Zaid said, “We must focus on the light in difficult times. Palestinians make up over a third of refugees in camps across the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. These refugees should use the occasion of World Refugee Day to demonstrate and pay tribute to their fortitude. We should strive to keep hope alive.”
John Geng, the Director of the Relief Works Agency in Gaza, thanked humanitarian institutions for supporting various projects in the West Bank and Gaza. He noted, however, that refugees in the Gaza Strip continue to face limited or hindered access to education, work, health, and housing.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that 70 percent of Palestinians are living on less than 2.50 USD a day. In addition, it is estimated that some 50,000 Jerusalemites are isolated by the emerging Israeli Wall, which hinders their ability to access current work and other job opportunities.
Christie Campbell, spokeswoman for Defense for Children International-Palestine, commented that the quality of life in the Gaza Strip has declined markedly in recent times. She added that due to the incidence of poverty and the worsening economic condition, many Gaza families have even taken to selling the iron fragments left by Israeli missiles to provide for their daily needs. She explained that even with this unbelievable effort, many Palestinian families survive on only one paltry meal a day.