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UNRWA students fly thousands of kites demanding their schools remain open

Relief agency says it is facing the worst financial crisis in 70 years

By JT - Mar 12,2018 - Last updated at Mar 12,2018

Students take part in a solidarity kite flying initiative across the region on Monday (Photo courtesy of UNRWA)

AMMAN — Thousands of students from the region on Monday flew kites to send a message of hope, demanding that all the schools run by the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees remain open, in spite of the financial crisis confronting UNRWA.  

More than 500,000 students in 700 schools took part in the kite flying events in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, where the relief agency provides education to 525,000 children daily.

This ambitious initiative comes ahead of an extraordinary ministerial conference to be held in Rome on March 15, convened by Jordan, Sweden and Egypt to bridge UNRWA’s $446 million funding shortfall for 2018, UNRWA said in a statement
e-mailed to The Jordan Times on Monday.

The agency said it is facing the worst financial crisis in its 70-year history.

Ahmad Jamal, secretary of UNRWA’s student parliament, was quoted in the statement as urging the international community to go to Rome with additional funds for the agency. “On behalf of half a million children, the next generation in the Middle East, I appeal to you from my heart. I respectfully ask for your support to help us achieve our full potential.”

Referring to the global fund raising initiative, #DignityIsPriceless launched by UNRWA in January, he said “hand in hand with UNRWA, we can, we will, deliver for our families, for our communities and for the Middle East. Our Dignity is Priceless.”

UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl, endorsed the call by the students, saying: “Together, we stand for the rights and dignity of Palestine refugees. Together, we also stand for the integrity, honour and mandate of UNRWA. We will defend them with passion and transform worries into positive energy and creative new initiatives.”

“As a symbol of how strongly we feel about our services, we called on UNRWA students in all fields to fly kites today over our 700 schools as a message to the world that their dignity is indeed priceless,” he added.

The relief agency said that, if its critical funding gap is not filled, “not only is the daily education of over half a million children at risk, but its health services may also be impacted, such as the vaccination of 180,000 children this year and 9 million patient consultations delivered annually by UNRWA medical staff”.

In addition, the agency delivers cash or food assistance to 1.7 million refugees, of which 1 million live in Gaza. It also supports 40,000 disabled refugees, provides recreational activities for 200,000 children and disburses $40 million of micro-finance loans annually, the statement concluded.

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