Deprives Gaza children of education
UNRWA intends to stop new generations from benefiting its services
Mohammed Ashour, 6, was unable to start primary school with his peers this autumn after his parents were informed that he would be unable to enrol in a UNRWA-run school in Gaza due to new processes that affect a part of the population known locally as mahareem ('deficient').
Mohammed is not the only child who has been unable to enroll in a UNRWA school; many others, like him, have moms who are registered refugees and siblings who have always been treated as refugees and enrolled in UNRWA schools.
The term mahareem' refers to Palestinian families who receive UNRWA services and have been classified as 'poor' by the organization, allowing them to receive health, education, and other relief services without having to be legally registered as refugees.
The UNRWA would stamp the children's birth certificates to signify that they are eligible for its services. However, this method was recently canceled, with the goal of preventing future generations from benefiting from UNRWA's services.
This move, according to experts, is part of UNRWA's attempt to reduce its services. Children whose names appear on one of their parents' ration cards and who would have been eligible to attend an agency school previously are being denied admission.
They are now considered 'citizens,' which means they are no longer eligible for UNRWA services, which are now only available to ration card holders. This implies they won't be able to attend UNRWA schools like their siblings, causing family strife and causing their food assistance to be withheld.
Muhammed's mother, Amal al-Dahshan, claims that UNRWA classified her as "poor," and that she and her children received different services despite the fact that they were never formally registered as refugees. She has, however, recently encountered a number of difficulties.
"I am the mother of three children. Anas, my son, and Nasima, my daughter, both attended UNRWA schools. However, I was shocked that my youngest son, Muhammad, was denied enrollment, considering that I myself in this category, despite the fact that I am married to a non-refugee, and that my siblings, who are also in this category, continue to benefit from the agency's services "..
Al-Dahshan tells Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication, that the reduction in UNRWA's education, assistance, and health programs has harmed her and her family.
"We were obliged to enroll Muhammed in a government school, despite the fact that it was far away from our home. He's also sad that his brother and sister are attending UNRWA school and that he can't join them — it's affecting his mental health ".
Safa 'Ayad is also in the 'poor' category as designated by UNRWA, and her children were always treated as refugees. Four of her children went to UNRWA schools, however the agency refused to stamp the birth certificate of her youngest son Ziad, which excludes him from any agency services – food, relief or access to an UNRWA school.
'Ayad explains: "The UNRWA reductions have happened in stages. My first son Omar's birth certificate was given an official stamp; then with my next two children, Alaa and Amer, the agency stamped my birth certificate to show they had access to services; then they refused to stamp my son Asem's birth certificate, but he was still treated as a refugee and registered in a UNRWA school. However, with my youngest son Ziad, they refused to stamp his birth certificate and refused to give him access to any services".
UNRWA's mandate, according to Sameer Abu Mudallalah, a refugee researcher, is to provide education, health, and humanitarian services to UNRWA ration cards. "The agency has been decreasing its services in various areas, most notably health and education, for years now," he explains.
"What is occurring to the mahareem group should be strongly criticized because of the disastrous impact it will have on a huge segment of the Palestinian population, as well as on the services provided to 250,000 Palestinian children who are being denied food, healthcare, and education. This is a really troubling condition that foreshadows much more deprivation in the future "..
These actions, according to Abu Mudallalah, are in response to American pressure on UNRWA to stop treating subsequent generations of refugee families as refugees and to deny them access to UNRWA's services. He emphasizes the negative impact this action will have on Gaza's children's mental health.