Vienna, 9 October 2008 Press release

Winkler: "UNRWA's valuable work in alleviating suffering and despair"

State Secretary Hans Winkler meets UNRWA Commissioner General Karen Abu Zeid

Vienna, 9 October 2008 - Some 4.6 million Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria receive support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). "In particular their humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank, and partially in Lebanon is a cause for concern. In many cases, UNRWA is the only institution there that operates schools, offers health care, and provides social and emergency services. Without their valuable work and daily commitment, the suffering and despair would be even more widespread than what is already a terrifying reality", said State Secretary Hans Winkler after a meeting he had with UNRWA Commissioner General Karen Abu Zeid.

Their exchange of opinions focused on the situation of the Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, especially in the Gaza Strip, and on the work of the UNRWA in the region.

Winkler reminded that, during the international donor conference in Vienna in June of this year, Austria made a much-needed contribution to the reconstruction of the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr El Bared in Lebanon. "We can give people a new perspective for the future and actually improve their living conditions only through sustainable international support and close cooperation with humanitarian organisations on the ground. People must sense progress and improvement", said Winkler, who stressed that Austria will continue its efforts toward a comprehensive solution of the Middle East conflict. Austria had provided 1 million Euros at the conference, half of which will benefit women and in particular female small entrepreneurs through special programmes. “An acceptable and sustainable solution of the refugee problem must become a central part of a future peace treaty", said the State Secretary.

Winkler also promised to the Commissioner General that Austria will provide the best possible support and aid for the work of the Relief and Works Agency in the Near East. UNRWA is particularly active in the areas of education, health, social services, and emergency aid. The Austrian Development Cooperation (OEZA) has been supporting the UNRWA for several years through specific projects, such as quick emergency aid for victims of house demolitions, the reconstruction of health centres and hospitals, as well as other humanitarian projects.

Federal Ministry for
European and international Affairs
Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469