By Lydia O’Kane
The camp is run by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is also aiding refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Travelling with the Bishops on this annual trip to support the Christian community living in the Holy Land, is Sean Farrell, Head of International Development with Trócaire, Ireland’s Catholic Development agency.
Speaking about the visit to the camp, he noted that, “it’s densely populated with very high levels of unemployment and clearly high levels of poverty, and in Jenin we visited a school run by UNRWA - United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees and we also walked around Jenin to meet a number of people.”
Sean said that what struck him was that all across the West Bank “we are dealing with the reality of occupation”. With that, he continued, “comes the crippling of the Palestinian economy and the huge suffering of the population, both Christian and Muslim right across the West Bank.”
Resilience and determination
Despite the hardships people are facing, he emphasized that there was “huge resilience, huge determination to continue despite the problems, but on the other side it does seem that the potential of a two state solution is further away now that ever."
Sean also pointed out that recent funding cuts to UNRWA have had a knock on effect on the work that is being done in the field of health, education and social services both across the West Bank and Gaza.
With regard to the situation in Gaza, the Trocaire Development Director underlined that the blockade there “is having a massive impact. People in Gaza cannot trade with the outside world; nobody can get in, very few people can access Gaza and certainly nobody can get out.” In Gaza right now, he added, “if there isn’t humanitarian aid the suffering is going to be immense.”
For Sean, education is “a vital ingredient”. “Number one if kids are not in school what are they doing and number two what is the future going to be like without an education system functioning in places like Gaza and the West Bank. What we do not want to see is that we have a young population that doesn’t have access to learning; doesn’t have opportunities in life etc…” He added that an investment in education is something that will pay off in the long run, not only for the students in the classrooms, but also the societies that they come from.