Gaza, ALRAY - A month-long strike by UNRWA employees has resulted in pileups of garbage and clogged sewers in the Shoafat refugee camp in Jerusalem and left some 51,000 Palestinian children out of school, Israeli media said.
Haaretz.com reported that the work stoppage by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, has also closed down dozens of health clinics in the occupied West Bank.
According to long-held understandings between UNRWA and the municipality, the UN agency collects the trash in the camp and provides some of the education and health care services for the camp residents.
The Israeli daily quoted a resident of Shoafat refugee camp as saying “Our children have been in the streets for a month, the elderly cannot go to the doctor, there is garbage everywhere, the sewers are clogged, and no one is fixing anything,” says H., a camp resident. "We’ve got big problems, but no one cares."
A labor dispute arose between UNRWA and its employees when they demanded higher wages, claiming they receive less than Palestinian Authority workers. UNRWA officials counter that the employees earn 20 percent more than PA workers, according to Haaretz.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Guinnes said that “Shoafat illustrates horrifically the impact of the strike on this forgotten refugee population, living in a state of limbo in a kind of no man’s land. Camp residents pay tax to the Israeli authorities but receive few services and there’s no refuse collection. Compounding the nightmare, the [separation] wall means the PA don’t have access so the refugees are reliant on UNRWA. It’s unsustainable to have people living in these conditions and highlights yet again the need to resolve the refugee issue.”
The Jerusalem municipality responded to inquiries by stating “as per UN policy on refugee camps, UNRWA is the organization that provides sanitation services in these locations."