The ongoing plight of Palestinian refugees
Following the War of 1948, approximately 750,000 Palestinians fled their ancestral homeland after the destruction of their villages and the formation of Israel, according to afsc.org. Today, over 5 million Palestinians are living in occupied territories such as Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, or in refugee camps. The current Palestinian Refugee Crisis is the result of systemic displacement through home demolition, revocation of residency rights, and land confiscation.
The rights of Palestinians differ between countries. Those not registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) typically retain citizen, immigrant, or refugee status in their country. Most, however, do not hold citizenship, therefore society considers them foreigners without political or social rights, including access to education, healthcare, and social security. Palestinians living in refugee camps face similar limitations such as poor socioeconomic conditions, high population density, cramped living situations, and ineffective basic infrastructure. The UNRWA runs public schools, health centers, and distribution stations within these camps, according to unrwa.org.
The spread of COVID-19 disproportionately impacted Palestinian refugees due to the crowded and unsanitary living conditions of the refugee camps, which also aggravate pre-existing lung and cardiac ailments, according to news.trust.org. Economic damage as a result of the coronavirus pandemic left many refugees without a stable source of income. The UNRWA is working to support Palestinian refugees through food donations and monetary assistance, according to unrwa.org. Beginning September 4, 2020, the UNRWA launched a $95 million appeal to focus on providing healthcare and education amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General, expressed the importance of global assistance to aid Palestinians impacted by COVID-19.
“I call on our global partners to continue helping millions of Palestine refugees stay safe,” Mr. Lazzarini said, according to unrwa.org. “In these uncertain times, the predictability of the Agency’s services, particularly health and education, help maintain a sense of normality and stability in Palestine refugee communities.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Mr. Ashraf Amra