UN agency seeks $26 million to revamp Palestinian refugee camp from ‘bottom up’
The main United Nations agency caring for Palestinian refugees has appealed for $26 million to improve the living conditions of some 18,000 Palestinians living in Neirab camp near Aleppo, Syria, as part of a new project emphasizing community participation.
“This is a bottom-up project, where the refugee community prioritized the development of their neighbourhood,” UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Director in Syria Panos Moumtzis said.
The top priority for refugees is improvement of education and health facilities. They also would like to have open public spaces, leisure facilities and neighbourhood nurseries. In addition, the project will create opportunities for skills training and employment coaching activities.
Neirab camp originally housed World War II troops. Six decades later, Palestine refugees still live in the original barracks and no renovations or re-building has been done to accommodate the expanding population over the years. This has led to overcrowding and unsafe building structures that pose health and safety hazards.
In 2003, UNRWA started a project to relocate 300 families to new houses on land made available by the Syrian Government in the nearby camp of Ein Al-Tal. This represented Phase I of the project, but the need remains to improve conditions in Neirab camp itself. Phase II will utilize the newly available space in Neirab to reconstruct the camp and to develop housing units and community facilities.
“The Neirab project represents a prototype that will empower Palestinians to secure their livelihoods, meet their needs and address their concerns,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd said yesterday.
The project reflects the co-operation between the Syrian Arab Republic, UNRWA and donor countries to provide better services to Palestinian refugees. So far, the Syrian Government has been the strongest supporter to the project, contributing $6.5 million.
Established in 1949 after the first Israeli-Arab war, UNRWA is the main provider of basic services - education, health, relief and social services - to over 4.3 million registered Palestine refugees throughout the Middle East.