UNRWA to provide new jobs to Gaza refugees 20Jan13 January 20, 2013

Palestine News Network    -     19 January 2013

On Thursday 17th January, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced that it will provide thousands of temporary jobs to Gaza refugees following a European Commission (EC) donation of 14 million euros over three years to its Job Creation Program (JCP).

UNRWA director, Robert Turner, welcomed the donation at a news conference in Gaza stressing that “this will make a valuable contribution to poverty alleviation and help mitigate the effects of the protracted economic crisis on vulnerable Palestine refugee households and the public and private sectors in Gaza.”

Following the EC donation, UNRWA will provide job opportunities for 7,270 unskilled beneficiaries, nearly 4,000 skilled beneficiaries, as well as professionals and graduates. Of these 11,270 jobs, more than 5,000 jobs over a one year period will be provided to support UNRWA and its partners in the delivery of basic services, according to an UNRWA statement.

“This will positively impact service delivery in vital areas including education, health, relief services and environmental health,” said Turner.

“In addition, 6,222 jobs will be provided over three years to support the private sector, contributing to economic growth in Gaza, but to be sustainable, there will have to be a significant easing of the blockade regime, leading to a total lifting, particularly on export restrictions,” he added.

With severe restrictions on exports due to the ongoing blockade, the private sector in Gaza has virtually collapsed, leaving the population of 1.7 million people (70% of who are Palestine refugees) largely dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. Unemployment rates rose to 32% in 2012, said the UNRWA statement.

Combined with existing support from Britain’s Department for International Development, the Belgian government and other partners, UNRWA’s JCP program will expand from approximately 3,000 positions and 10,000 direct beneficiaries to over 6,000 positions and 18,000 beneficiaries – which will total some 1.85 million job days.

URNWA also announced that re-housing projects funded by Saudi Arabia and Japan have been handed over to refugees living in temporary and poor shelters.

According to the statement, 6,208 refugees, whose shelters were damaged or destroyed, have now received a new home either in Rafah or Khan Younis.

In addition to the required public infrastructure and necessary services, both projects include green areas contributing to improved quality of inhabitants’ life. The construction of the two large scale projects generated some 3,600 urgently needed jobs for workers in the building trades and among local manufacturers of building materials.

Work is ongoing on a second phase of the Saudi funded project and an Emirati funded project that by the end of 2013 will provide housing for an additional 9,026 refugees. An International Arab Development Bank funded project will provide self-help shelter repairs for a further 6,000 people.

“UNRWA remains extremely concerned about the funding for its ongoing projects, particularly the currently foreseen $68m shortfall in its General Fund and its much relied upon emergency food program,” said the UNRWA statement.

UNRWA’s Gaza Recovery and Reconstruction Plan is designed to provide a basis for sustained socio-economic growth and human development. It foresees the construction of 100 schools, at least 10,000 housing units, five health centers and critical water and sanitation infrastructure.

However, UNRWA reiterated that “for any economic gains to be sustainable, the blockade must be lifted.”

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