UN agency to mark 60 years of assisting Palestinian refugees

14 May 2009
Still from film showing child releasing blue balloon

The United Nations agency tasked with providing education, health, relief and social services to 4.6 million Palestinian refugees is set to kick off a series of events on Friday to commemorate its 60th anniversary.

In the first of many worldwide events, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East will release 60 blue balloons over Ramallah as a symbol of hope rising over obstacles and uniting those who have been separated and scattered, the agency said in a news release.

Each balloon will have the wishes of Palestinian refugee children attached on tags, which are numbered with the purpose of tracking the balloons and marking their destinations on a map on the agency’s website.

The agency, established by the General Assembly in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, stressed that the commemoration is an occasion for sober reflection on six decades of exile during which UNRWA has worked alongside the refugees in times of relative calm in the Middle East, as well as strife.

The “UNRWA at 60” launch event will be hosted by Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd at the Ramallah Women’s Training Centre and attended by senior Palestinian government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, senior representatives of the Palestine refugee community, and members of local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI visited an UNRWA camp near Bethlehem yesterday, during which he announced a pledge of 50,000 Euros, which will allow for the building of three new classrooms at a boys’ school. The Pope stressed that a commitment to education is an expression of “hope in the future.”

Ms. AbuZayd said she hoped the Pope’s message “will resonate with those entrusted with the privilege of political authority and encourage them to work together to achieve a just and lasting peace.”


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