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Agence Française de Développement Contributes to Construction of Schools and Environmental Health Infrastructure in Lebanon
On October 17th, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) signed a landmark EUR 21 million agreement for the construction of two new school complexes and improvements to water infrastructure across all 12 Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon.

The signing ceremony, was attended by the Ambassador of France, Bruno Foucher, Chief of UNRWA Donor Relations Division Marc Lassouaoui, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone, AFD Regional Director of the Middle East, Olivier Ray, the Ambassador of Palestine, Ashraf Dabbour, as well as representatives of the Lebanese army, Palestinian NGOs, Palestinian Popular Committees and students from UNRWA schools.   

Funded under AFD’s Peace & Resilience MINKA Fund, the Water Access, Health and Education Transformation (WAHET) Project will support UNRWA in the construction two school complexes from by 2023. One school will be located in Nahr el-Bared Camp (NBC), benefiting some 1,300 Palestine refugees. The other will be located in Beirut benefitting approximately 1,700 students. These purpose-built schools will replace rented and pre-fabricated school premises, ensuring students will receive quality, equitable and inclusive education in a conducive and safer environment. 

The new schools are set to reduce the financial burden of rental costs, which is critically important given the ongoing financial challenges facing the Agency. In its new installations, UNRWA will also pilot trilingual Arabic-English-French education, which is critical for opening the doors to further educational and economic opportunities available in Lebanon’s multilingual context. 

The new contribution from AFD will also allow comprehensive rehabilitation of urgent water infrastructure needs across all camps in Lebanon. These works will provide greater access to safe and equitable quantities of water to meet the daily demand of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. 

Since their creation some 70 years ago, the Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon have remained confined to the same restricted areas. As the infrastructure has deteriorated and the population increased – notably with the influx of refugees from Syria in the recent years – services accessible to the camp communities stand under increasing pressure. This has multiple impacts on health, livelihoods, educational attainment, psychosocial wellbeing and security in the camps.

Fighting vulnerabilities is one of AFD’s strategic priorities by 2022. In the region, AFD’s Peace and Resilience MINKA Fund supports multi-year initiatives, increasing the resilience of communities affected by conflict and forced displacements. The WAHET project is a landmark in our commitment to reducing inequalities and supporting cohesion in Lebanon.

Olivier Ray, the AFD Regional Director for the Middle East

Expressing his appreciation to the continuous support of France, Mr. Lassouaoui said: “France's continued support for UNRWA is essential to enable us to continue implementing our humanitarian and development programmes, and to provide emergency services to 5.5 million Palestine refugees. Your support and that of all our partners, to which we are most grateful, is a key proof of the commitment of States to protect human dignity, defend the rights of Palestine refugees, and maintain regional stability.

"We are very grateful to France for their generous support to Palestine refugees and to UNRWA. This new contribution will be critical in additional educational facilities, improving the health environment in the camps and providing much needed employment opportunities," said Mr. Cordone. “We look forward to strengthening our partnership with AFD in the coming years.

Mr. Dabbour paid tribute to France's clear and firm position in support of the continuity of UNRWA's mandate. He also stressed the importance of the Agency’s presence to preserve the rights and dignity of Palestine refugees.

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