Dheisheh, the oldest refugee camp in the West Bank, is set to receive a facelift under a new UNWRA upgrade plan. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), is launching a new program to upgrade UN refugee camps’ dilapidated facilities.While the UN and other agencies have been providing essential services in the camps for decades they now say that the time has come to upgrade services for the growing population of residents.
However they also highlight that these improvements for the people while a more permanent solution does not “jeopardize [the refugee’s] right to return back home”
Basic needs said Sandi Hilal the Director of UNRWA’s camp improvement program “is not enough when we consider people have been living in a place for 60 years.
Some 700,000 people fled or were driven from their homes when Israel was created after the 1948 war, but now as many as five million refugees and their descendants live in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Founded in 1949, UNRWA is almost as old as the UN itself. With the help of German government funding, the agency is improving health clinics, sanitation and advanced education in coordination with local committees in five camps in the West Bank and two in Jordan.
Israel says the demand for a right to return is a deal breaker in any peace accord, arguing that allowing the refugees into Israel would increase the proportion of Palestinians living within its borders and thus undermine its nature as a Jewish state.
Peace talks have been frozen since 2010, with the Palestinians saying they will not re-engage until there is a halt to Jewish settlement building in the occupied territories.
Camp resident Othman Abu Omar stated “standards of living here are plunging. We hope one day to be done with dependence. Everybody should depend on himself.’