David Bedein’s article “Why is the Shuafat Refugee Camp Seething?” (Israel Resource Review, October 13) outlines some of the urgent problems facing refugee camp residents, but it unfairly places the blame on the wrong party. The following outlines some of the services the UNWRA provides in Shuafat: Schooling for 1,571 children and a new girls’ school being built at a cost of over $1 million donated by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD); medical care at a clinic which has more than 35,000 patient visits a year; environmental sanitation through a sewage and surface water drainage project, including asphalting of streets, at a cost of $1 million, also funded by SFD; and a new community center which houses UNRWA-assisted programs for women, the disabled and youth, a testament to the agency’s help to these groups.

There is close coordination between UNRWA and the camp committee on community-based activites and awareness campaigns. This cooperation is leading to the setting up of a children’s park with UNRWA’s technical assistance and support.

The writer points out the crowded conditions of the camp – which has an area of 203 dunams and a population of over 8,000. With a growing population and no more space for building housing, the refugees themselves are adding storeys to their houses. UNRWA does not build houses. Shuafat is located within the boundaries of the municipality of Jerusalem, so many responsibilities lie in the hands of the municipal government, such as the provision of adequate supplies of clean water, refuse collection and links to the muncipal sewage system. Shuafat does not belong to UNRWA, nor does any other refugee camp. The agency only provides services in camps. UNRWA’s mandate is regularly renewed by the UN General Assembly and it has no intention of giving up its responsibilities to provide services in Shuafat camp or in any other Palestine refugee camp.

Ron Wilkinson
Chief, Public Information Office, UNRWA