Archive for the ‘News’ Category

By Elizabeth Cooper

On January 21st, 2010, the Conservative government announced that Canada would be withdrawing its financial support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). UNRWA has been assisting Palestinian Refugees gain access to food, education, health care and social services since 1950, when they numbered roughly 1 million. Today, the number of Palestinians in refugee camps has swelled to approximately 5 million and their circumstances have seen little change.

As a volunteer during CEPAL’s 2009 Summer Program, I saw firsthand the impact of UNRWA’s presence in the camps. Each camp has an UNRWA school, giving hundreds of children access to education. My fellow CEPAL volunteers, Julie and Erin, worked at UNRWA schools in both Shatila and Wavel camps. The infrastructure provided by the school makes summer programs like CEPAL’s possible.

While living in Bourj el-Barajneh, UNRWA’s presence wasn’t flashing in neon lights at the main entrance to the camp. It was omnipresent, however. Blue signs outside of small offices, the schools, rubbish collectors with UNRWA vests, the occasional question from a resident, “do you work for UNRWA?” Healthcare, including hospitals, doctors and medicine, is provided for by UNRWA. Social services, including disability and emergency relief, are designed to assist individuals in becoming more self-reliant. UNRWA also runs microfinance programs and programs for women, all designed to promote positive socio-economic growth within the Palestinian community. UNRWA has provided many physical benefits to the Palestinians, but they have also provided quantifiable evidence of Palestinian population numbers, unemployment rates, health statistics and documented living conditions. All of this information colludes to form a body of knowledge that represents the Palestinian people in the global arena. Reports written, photographs taken, statistics calculated; all help to define the plight of Palestinian refugees and publicize it internationally.

UNRWA is funded exclusively by UN member nations. In 2009, only 86% of targeted funding was reached, which has resulted in a reduction in quality and quantity of services. With the Palestinian population growing, the situation will continue to worsen. Canada’s withdrawal of funding, after multiple decades, means UNRWA has just lost its 7th largest donor. The loss of these funds could have real impact on the ground in camps like Bourj, where I lived, and friends I made continue to live. The funds, reallocated to other, as yet unspecified Palestinian projects, are crucial to the delivery of important UNRWA programs. CEPAL’s primary mandate is empowerment through education; these cuts could severely inhibit UNRWA’s ability to provide access to education in the camps.

We at CEPAL encourage anyone reading this statement to write a letter to their member of parliament, asking for an explanation for the withdrawal of funding, and a breakdown of the reallocation of funds.

Thanks to the hard work and help of many volunteers and donors, CEPAL is delighted to announce that we successfully ran our 11th summer program in Lebanon!

Last summer’s Needs Assessment has helped us to reaffirm that yes, our summer program in the camps is as important as ever and that yes, CEPAL’s summer program plays a significant role in the camps.

This year we were fortunate enough to hire volunteers who had the specific skills that our partner NGO’s were looking for.  This included photography, drama and science.

Three volunteers and one coordinator completed a three-day series of teaching workshops with UNRWA and Najdeh in Wavel camp, and then moved on to Bourj el-Barajneh camp in South Beirut to begin their regular classes.

Elizabeth Cooper used photography to a connect to children of various ages at the Children and Youth Centre of Shatila, as well as a class of younger children at the Women’s Humanitarian Organization in Bourj.

Erin Lynch taught a group of grade 8 students at the UNRWA Haifa school, as well as a group of young teens at Najdeh school in Shatila.

Julie Davidson taught at UNRWA Haifa, with the younger group of grade 7 students.  After spending the early morning there, she made her way to Najdeh in Bourj, where she taught  science and English.

Wendy Chan, the Lebanon Field Coordinator, worked very hard to continue to build our relationships with all of our partners and with the community as a whole.

We’re very grateful to our volunteers, who have enabled CEPAL to continue lending an empathetic ear, helping hands, and a voice of solidarity to our friends in Lebanon.

News & Links

1.  Call out for Volunteers – CEPAL 2009 Summer Program
2.  OPT: Additional support from the European Commission to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (ReliefWeb)
3.  It’s time to rethink Zionism (The Guardian)
4.  Explosives haul missing in Gaza (BBC)
5.  Lebanon: Funding struggle slowing cluster bomb clearance in south (IRIN)

CEPAL is recruiting for the 2009 Summer Program

The application process for the 2009 Summer Program has begun. CEPAL works in partnership with local Palestinian NGOs in the refugee camps in Lebanon, and CEPAL Summer Program volunteers teach as part of ongoing local summer school programs and activities. The focus of CEPAL’s Summer Program is language skills training through informal teaching techniques.
We are looking to send highly motivated individuals looking for a chance to use their teaching or group coordination skills in a truly meaningful experience abroad. CEPAL offers a unique opportunity to learn about life in a Palestinian refugee camp, while working with children to improve their English skills through the arts.

Positions and deadlines:
Volunteer Teachers: Friday, February 27th, 2009 at 5:00 PM EST
Wavel Camp Coordinator: Friday, February 20th, 2009, at 5:00 PM EST
Lebanon Field Coordinator: Friday, February 20th, 2009, at 5:00 PM EST

Program dates and duration:
Pre-departure orientation: 3 days in May 2009
Overseas Period: July-August 2009
Debrief: one weekend in early autumn

Volunteer Teachers will be expected to fundraise toward participation costs. Return flight and daily stipend provided.
To fill out an application or for more information please visit

OPT: Additional support from the European Commission to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

European Commission – Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), ReliefWeb
16 February 2009

The European Commission has allocated a further €6 million in humanitarian aid to support operations in favour of the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. These funds will contribute to the delivery of water and sanitation services, shelter rehabilitation, livelihoods, health and psycho-social support. This financial commitment is part of the Commission’s 2009 Middle East Funding Plan allocating €58 million to assist the Palestinian population in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon.

All funds are channelled through the Commission’s Humanitarian aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel. The projects will be implemented by UN agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross/Red Crescent family.

The humanitarian situation of the 419,285 (UNRWA figure – September 30, 2008) registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon continues to be of concern to the European Commission.

The funded projects aim at tackling immediate humanitarian needs and contributing to ensuring that families have access to basic shelter, health care and livelihood support, including the Nahr el Bared displaced populations’ unmet needs.

Following a closer mapping of the needs which emerged after the Nahr el Bared crisis, up to 4500 displaced persons will benefit from the Cash for Work projects by rehabilitating community spaces in the adjacent area of Nahr el Bared refugee camp. Humanitarian operations aiming at improving access and availability of safe and potable water will be implemented for the Palestinian refugees living in the most contaminated areas. Shelter interventions linked with sanitation will enhance the living conditions of 950 Palestinian families living in substandard homes. In addition, specific needs in secondary health care as well as health and psychosocial support to the disabled, youth and elderly will be supported.

The Commission’s humanitarian projects are delivered complementarily with the mandated United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in places where the Palestinian population does not have access to UNRWA services.

The Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department has provided humanitarian aid to Palestinians worth €353,75 million to the most vulnerable population, since 2000. It has a long-standing commitment to provide speedy and impartial help to distressed people, irrespective of the media spotlight.

The European Commission continues to be one of the largest humanitarian donors for the Palestinian population in the Middle East.


1. Explosives haul missing in Gaza
Tim Franks, BBC
17 February 2009

A large stockpile of unexploded weapons has disappeared in Gaza, before United Nations experts were able to dispose of it safely, the BBC has learned. The explosives, including aircraft bombs and white phosphorus shells, were fired by the Israeli military during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip. UN officials said they were urgently trying to establish where the arms had gone and have called for their return.

2. It’s time to rethink Zionism
Daphna Baram, The Guardian
17 February 2009

The desire for ethnic purity that drove out Palestinians and bars the way to democracy in Israel is the rotten fruit of an old debate. The results of last week’s parliamentary elections in Israel brought to the surface some of the most rotten fruits of a debate that has been going on throughout the state’s existence: the idea that a mono-ethnic Jewish state is feasible, legitimate and desirable. In other words, it enhanced the predicament of the moral and practical consequences of the Zionist state ideology.

3. Lebanon: funding struggle slowing cluster bomb clearance in south
IRIN – UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
5 February 3009

Waning international interest and funding is harming efforts to rid southern Lebanon of its hundreds of thousands of remaining cluster bomblets, posing a continuing threat to farmers and children, according to mine clearance organisations.

Israel dropped a large number of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon during the July 2006 war with the Shia guerrilla and political group Hezbollah. Each bomb can release hundreds of individual bomblets, and about a quarter failed to explode on impact, effectively becoming landmines that can kill or maim.

“For almost all the organisations, it’s a continuous struggle to generate enough interest and funding to keep the teams on the ground working, which obviously has an impact on the amount of cluster bombs [bomblets] they can clear,” said Tekimiti Gilbert, the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre’s (UNMACC) acting programme manager. This year started with 33 teams on the ground, down from 44 last year, he said. But six of those teams, hired by the UK-based NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Denmark’s DanChurchAid, have been dropped since then.

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