Palestine's Jenin camp residents feel 'abandoned' without aid to rebuild, says UN

Philippe Lazzarini says needs of 24,000 residents must be met with sustainable solutions to help them become self-reliant

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini called for a show of solidarity for the refugees as he visited the Jenin camp. Photo: UNRWA
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Residents of Jenin camp will be in extreme “despair” and “distress” if the UN’s pledge of $23 million is not met to rebuild homes after a devastating Israeli raid, a top UN official told The National.

Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, visited the camp on Thursday for the first time since the raid in early July. He said residents' needs are extremely high and the agency is attempting to address more sustainable solutions to the crisis.

Donor fatigue has played a major part in slowing down commitments to the grief-stricken 24,000 residents of the densely populated camp.

“People have already lost a lot, this will fuel the feeling that people are abandoned by the international community and this will fuel even more despair and distress in an environment with very little prospects,” Mr Lazzarini said.

“I believe it is vital that we show our solidarity to the refugees and the most underprivileged group in the region who are living under occupation,” he said.

The Israeli raid on Jenin was described as the biggest since 2002, during the second Intifada, or mass Palestinian uprising.

Jenin has been subjected to deadly Israeli raids in recent weeks that left dozens dead and hundreds injured. The latest incursion also destroyed around 80 per cent of the camp.

During the 48-hour raid starting on July 3, 12 Palestinians were killed, including four children, and more than 140 injured, including 20 critically.

One Israeli soldier was also killed, and another injured.

More than 500 Palestinian families, comprising some 3,500 people, fled their homes during the operation, while at least 40 families remain internally displaced, according to UNRWA figures.

More than 1,000 homes in the camp have been damaged, among these, 41 have been destroyed and more than 70 severely damaged.

Mr Lazzarini said when “people feel they have no prospects this is a recipe to a situation we have seen recently in the West Bank”.

The UAE has pledged $15 million to UNRWA to rebuild damaged homes and businesses and for the agency’s services.

The funds will be used to provide cash assistance, rehabilitation of the camp as a whole and psycho-social support for all residents, said the UN official.

Several UNRWA installations in the camp, including schools, also sustained damage, including one building in a health centre complex that was destroyed.

The health centre is now unusable due to this damage and the high risk of unexploded bombs.

“The location of this centre is in a place that whenever there is tension or operations going on we will be in the middle of it,” Mr Lazzarini said.

“It’s time to make sure that whenever a situation similar to this one happens again that people can have access to primary or first aid medical services,” he said.

The UN official said his team is attempting to address “more pressing needs of the people” to ensure that “whatever is being invested contributes to something more sustainable.”

Residents of the camp are urging officials to find a way for them to stop relying on aid so they can find jobs and be self-reliant.

The camp is going through “skyrocketing unemployment and people are asking nothing else but a proper prospects.”

The Israeli-Palestinian crisis has seen very little political and socio-economic progress for years.

People living in Jenin “are in a situation of no political prospects, they don't see any socio-economic horizon, they don’t want to be a reliant on aid but they want to be fully reliant on themselves,” Mr Lazzarini said.

Updated: July 28, 2023, 4:27 PM