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"Long term solutions needed to prevent more tragedy in the Middle East"

PES President Sergei Stanishev meets UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl

Today, PES President Sergei Stanishev called for more stability and support to facilitate the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The PES President  met with UNRWA Commissioner Pierre Krahenbuhl to discuss UNRWA’s work in the Middle East. UNRWA provides health, education and social services for about 5 million Palestine refugees in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The organisation is facing enormous challenges due to the rise in conflicts in the region. 

‘We cannot close our eyes to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East’, says PES president Sergei Stanishev. ‘UNRWA has been facing an uphill battle trying to deal with an increasing amount of people in need. Poverty and lack of education have proven to be a fertile ground for recruitment for extremist organisations such as the Islamic State. We need to act now to ensure adequate educational, health and social services can reach all refugees, especially children, in the region.’

UNRWA is facing a budget deficit of more than 90 million Euro, and might not be able to open its schools in September. As a result of this it has already made significant staff cuts and increase the amount of children per classroom. ‘UNRWA also plays an important preventative role by providing essential services to refugees that would otherwise seek relief elsewhere. It is in the EU’s interest to ensure the organisation can continue its work in the long term.’

However, humanitarian and development assistance should go hand in hand with a comprehensive solution to the multiple conflicts in the Middle East, beginning with the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. ‘A status quo of the situation is unacceptable. In this context, standing still means going backwards. It is in the interest of both Palestinians and Israelis to put an end to this conflict.’

As part of UNRWA’s #SOS4Gaza ‘Message in a bottle’ campaign, President Sergei Stanishev accepted a bottle containing a message from a Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the hopes of a generation of Palestine refugee children and raise funds for the UNRWA education programme in Gaza. The campaign was officially launched on 18 June to mark the beginning of the Ramadan. On 8 July, it will also coincide with the first-year commemoration of the summer 2014 hostilities.

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