United Nations High Commission for Refugees - IDIA
PhilMUN 2010 3 particularly affecting children, are highly prevalent due to poor environmental conditions in the camps. 11 Needless to say, public health initiatives are sorely lacking. The UNHCR is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide; the public health of refugees is a priority for UNHCR, although UNRWA remains the main provider of basic health care to the Palestinian refugee community. In addition, host authorities are responsible for certain public health sectors and health services, although refugees do not have proper access. Since its creation, UNRWA has been establishing semi permanent health clinics in refugee camps and tries to ensure access to primary and secondary health service. Preventive health services are also provided, including “vaccination campaigns, health education, safety checks, and home visits to the elderly, nursing women and infants.” 12 However, it is important to realize that lack of donor funding has been undermining the quality of UNRWA’s provisions. It is imperative that the UNHCR address this issue because unlike UNRWA, its mandate extends to refugees outside of the Palestinian territory. It is important to understand the importance of investing in public health. Public health is inextricably interlinked with protection of human rights, and improving the physical and mental wellbeing of refugees can significantly alleviate their conditions. Health is a major marker in development and productivity; communities wouldn’t be sustainable without public health initiatives. Ameliorating the poor health conditions of these camps would allow refugees to better participate in the economic and political life of their communities. 11 Ibid 12 UNRWA Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework 2008-2011. UNRWA. http://www.un.org/unrwa/publications/NBC/NBC_RRR_Framework_6June08.pdf
PhilMUN 2010 4 Chronology 10 December 1948 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris after the events of the Second World War, and represented the first global acknowledgment of the rights to which every human is entitled. Article 25 states “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” 13 This reinforces the notion that the right to health is a fundamental part of human rights and is an essential component of a life in dignity. Thus, refugees, like everyone else are entitled to a healthy life and any adequate standard of living must be supported by a good public health system. 1948-1950 - Palestinian Exodus By the spring of 1948, a Jewish state was established over approximately seventyseven percent of Mandate Palestine. This action displaced ninety percent of indigenous Palestinian Arabs from their homes and dispersed across the region. They settled in camps in what became known as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Transjordan, Syria, and Lebanon, and also established small communities in Egypt, Iraq, and the states of the Arabian Peninsula. About 800,000 Palestinians were uprooted from their homes and became refugees. International organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Red Cross Societies, and the American Friends Service Committee, first provided assistance to the Palestinian refugees. In November 1948, the UN established the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR), which provided relief to refugees and coordinated with NGOs and other UN bodies such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health 13 “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. United Nations Documents. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ (accessed 11/21.2009).