UNRWA supports Palestinian refugee farmers in West Bank during olive harvest season [EN/AR] – Occupied Palestinian Territory
On the occasion of the annual olive harvest season, the field office of the United Nations Near East Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank organized an olive picking event in the city. West Bank of al-Walaja. The village is located four kilometers northwest of Bethlehem and is home to some 2,600 registered Palestinian refugees.
The annual olive harvest season is a key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians, and a festive time for family and friends who gather. However, every year farmers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, face threats of all kinds from settlers, including, but not limited to, physical assault and intimidation, destruction, uprooting and vandalism of olive trees, theft of crops and harvesting tools.
In addition, the West Bank barrier and associated barrier and permit regime are additional obstacles for Palestinian farmers facing restrictions on access and movement, which have serious consequences for living conditions and livelihoods. .
To mitigate the impact of some of these challenges, UNRWA, along with other humanitarian partners, has carried out activities to protect and support Palestinian refugee farmers. This year, UNRWA dedicated a day to helping a refugee family pick olives while providing olive harvesting tools and a protective presence to deter potential settler attacks.
This year, in addition to UNRWA staff members, students from UNRWA Al Walaja School participated in the event. The Deputy Director of UNRWA West Bank Affairs, Ms. Kate O’Rourke, stressed the importance of the Agency’s commitment and continued support to Palestinian refugees. “It is extremely important for us to have this activity, both to reaffirm our solidarity and commitment to protect the Palestinian refugee community in Al Walaja, and to participate in such an important part of Palestinian cultural heritage,” said Mrs. O’Rourke. .
Also speaking at the event, the head of the Al Walaja village council, Mr. Khader Araj thanked UNRWA for their participation in the olive picking and added: “UNRWA staff have participated in the gathering of olive trees on about thirty dunums of land currently threatened with confiscation. This participation is one of the many contributions that UNRWA has made to the residents of Al Walaja village in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2012, UNRWA has implemented four community protection projects in al-Walaja, including the opening of an agricultural road, the rehabilitation of a water source, the rehabilitation of the school of UNRWA located there and support to farmers during the olive harvest season.
Al Walaja is surrounded by the West Bank Barrier on three sides and is a neighbor of the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Gilo. It is also adjacent to the West Bank towns of Beit Jala and Bethlehem in Area B. The barrier has disconnected Al Walaja from some 1,000 dunams of farmland, now on the other side of the barrier. In an advisory decision, the International Court of Justice ruled that the barrier is in violation of Israel’s obligations under international law and called on Israel to cease construction and dismantle construction sections.
UNRWA faces increased demand for services resulting from an increase in the number of registered Palestinian refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and the deepening of their poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been overtaken by growing needs. As a result, UNRWA’s program budget, which supports the provision of basic essential services, is operating with a large deficit. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to make every effort to fully fund the Agency’s program budget. UNRWA’s emergency programs and key projects, which also operate with large deficits, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to Palestinian refugees registered in the Agency’s area of operations, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, while waiting for a just and lasting solution to their plight. Thousands of Palestinian refugees who lost both their homes and their livelihoods as a result of the 1948 conflict have remained displaced and need significant support for more than seventy years. UNRWA helps them realize their full potential for human development through the quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, infrastructure and improvement of camps, microfinance and emergency aid. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.
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