Unrwa director-general Wolfgang Plasa yesterday visited the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp to reassure Palestinian representatives that the agency was doing its best to improve services, although differences among groups prevented him from receiving a joint memorandum of demands.
Plasa, who refused to make a statement after the visit, reportedly showed “great understanding” to demands for improved services. Palestinian sources said Plasa reassured the representatives about Unrwa’s endeavour to improve services, especially in the medical field. This included a study of the possibility of concluding contracts with new hospitals in Sidon now that $15m in funds from donor countries have been made available.
He also announced that construction of Bissan secondary school would begin in the next few days. But Plasa said Unrwa’s budget was too small to provide for all demands due to the increase in the number of Palestinians and their needs.
The sources said Plasa admitted that although Canadian coordinator for the Middle East peace process Andrew Robinson should have visited the camp earlier this month, a lack of time prevented him from doing so.
The visit, which observers believe will help end the conflict between the Unrwa administration and Palestinian officials, was marred by differences that arose over who would meet Plasa, especially since he had intended to hold a joint meeting with all representatives.
He met separately with representatives of the various factions, promising that “a new page would be opened in Unrwa-Palestinian relations”.
He then toured the camp and visited Unrwa facilities.
The groups urged Unrwa to improve education, health and social services. The committees asked for better medical services, including rehabilitation for the disabled, new hospitals, increasing the number of doctors, free hospital and medical services for non-registered patients, additional hospital beds and the equipping of laboratories.
Other demands included providing lodging for displaced families, improving road conditions and securing work opportunities. They also asked Unrwa to urge the government to review a series of measures imposed against refugees.
Sidon MP Mustafa Saad urged the government to start a dialogue with Palestinian representatives and to secure their human civil rights.
In a statement released yesterday, Saad said that conditions in the camps for refugees lacked “the minimum requirements for a decent life.”