UN and partner agency inaugurate first child-friendly spaces in West Bank refugee camp

17 February 2016

The first ever child-friendly spaces – a football pitch and a playground – were inaugurated today in Aida refugee camp in the West Bank’s town of Bethlehem by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Lajee Center, a community-based grassroots creative cultural centre.

"The football pitch and playground inaugurated today are tremendously important for the well-being of the children of Aida Camp,” said the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Pierre Krähenbühl, in a press release.

“Together with our Palestinian and international partners, we are committed to continue supporting the children who have endured so much unacceptable pain and suffering,” he stressed.

The new spaces have been made possible with a generous contribution from the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and will provide the children of Aida camp with a rare opportunity to play within a very challenging environment.

"The refugee children of Aida camp are particularly exposed to frequent confrontations, resulting violence and tear gas in the camp. The playground and the football pitch provide a much-needed opportunity for these kids to play, have fun and for a moment forget about the daily challenges they face living under military occupation," explained the Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, Felipe Sanchez.

Diplomats from various countries and community representatives attended the inauguration in addition to UNRWA’s top officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, and the Director of the Lajee Center, Salah Ajarma.

The inauguration event also featured a football match between diplomats and children of Aida camp as well as an exhibition of photographs by Osama Silwadi portraying UNRWA staff's commitment to the protection of Palestine refugees.

The inauguration comes after several months of increased violence in and around Aida camp, with almost daily confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians. From 1 October 2015 to 11 February 2016, UNRWA recorded 93 incursions by Israeli forces into Aida camp, and more than 512 Palestine refugees, including 61 minors, were injured.

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