UNRWA (UN-ruh), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, is an agency dedicated to helping the millions of Palestinians who have been displaced by the coming of Israel. UNRWA maintains 53 refugee camps for 4.7 million people scattered across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza) as seen on this map.
As Israel continues to oppress, attack and displace Palestinians, UNRWA continues the decades long effort to provide basic humanitarian services such as education, medical care and even recreation for children. It isn't an easy job and the camps are not nice places, crowded as they are with the descendants of those forced from their homes in 1948. These are the people that Israel absolutely refuses to allow to return. They are a living reminder to the world of human cost of the foundation of Israel.
Though rarely making headlines, UNRWA occasionally breaks into the news. Such was the case during Operation Cast Lead, the 2008/09 Israeli attack on Gaza that included the bombardment of the UNRWA school in the Jabalya camp with white phosphorous that killed 42 people (14 children), the attack pictured here.
Just last month, Israel refused the entry of construction materials for five new UNRWA schools in Gaza. It's reported that 40,000 children in Gaza are not attending school as a result of the lack of facilities. Overall, UNRWA operates 691 schools with 483,000 pupils (50% female) under a comprehensive educational program
Money is always a problem. Some countries give generously and you can too.
In the United States, there are some people who revile the UN and insist that the US should not be a part of it. Yet, it is one of the few places that America can in a very small way compensate for the huge gifts of money and weapons we give to Israel. Throughout the world, the agencies of the United Nations operate to provide a last refuge for people who have lost everything to conflict. Though the UNRWA is dedicated to the Palestinians, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Fund for Population Assistance (UNFPA) operate worldwide to ease the very difficult lives so many face and about which too many Americans are unaware.