The UNRWA facilities have become a symbol of security and peace for Palestinian refugees in Syria. Survivors of more than ten years of conflict, Palestinian refugees need stable and secure spaces where they can come together as a community, develop their hobbies and explore their creativity. Tariq al Shalabi is an UNRWA distribution agent in the Neirab camp, near Aleppo, Syria. Its commitment to Palestinian refugees goes far beyond the distribution of food.
Tariq wants everyone who comes to the distribution center to leave with a smile on their face and maybe even some herbs from the garden or a colorful flower. Tariq created a garden near the UNRWA distribution center in Neirab as a gathering place for Palestinian refugees while they wait for their food packages. He maintains the green space throughout the year and has cultivated the little piece of land with love. In addition to pruning and maintaining the garden, Tariq cultivates it year round, making sure to plant seedlings throughout the year, ensuring fresh and colorful flowers and harvests in every season. The colorful evergreen display has been a popular addition, bringing joy to many. Harvest from the garden is shared among community members, UNRWA staff and interested visitors to the distribution center. Palestinian refugees coming to the center to collect their food packages often stay and spend time in the garden. During their breaks, the staff also gather around a cup of tea, with fresh mint from the garden and the staff gather around a cup of tea with fresh mint. UNRWA’s vocational students, who also share the space, often use the garden as a colorful backdrop for their photos.
Like Tariq, Ammar Abu Hemideh and Mahmoud Ali, two UNRWA sanitation workers in Neirab camp, take care of green spaces in UNRWA schools. They use their free time to make sure that these precious spaces, no matter how big or small, remain pruned and flowery. They observed that the plants and flowers bring relief to students and educational staff, all of whom survived years of conflict in Syria. UNRWA acknowledged their hard work with letters of appreciation. “We are very grateful and proud of it,” said Ammar. “But our most precious gratitude is to see the children – our children at the camp – looking at the little gardens, smelling the herbs and smiling at the flowers. It makes us happy to convey the value of nature and the environment, and to help provide a peaceful space where children can play and feel happy.
The prevalence of mental health and psychosocial problems is a growing concern for Palestinian refugees. In many areas of UNRWA’s operations, children and adults are exposed to violence, conflict and displacement. This is further complicated by a variety of external factors, including poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, oppression and exclusion. If left untreated, psychosocial distress can lead to mental illness, unhealthy and dangerous behavior, substance abuse, and poor academic performance.
The humanitarian work undertaken by UNRWA can be physically, emotionally and psychologically demanding. In addition, assistance is increasingly being provided under conditions of insecurity and danger to life, including the multiple rounds of conflicts in Gaza, house demolitions in the occupied West Bank and the ongoing conflict in Syria. UNRWA has developed mental health and psychosocial activities, including the development of life skills for children, individual and group counseling and counseling, and public awareness and adult education on the mechanisms of positive adaptation. In addition, UNRWA aims to establish a system that will strengthen the capacity of key staff to respond to individual cases of SMSPS either directly – through targeted and non-specialized interventions or coordinated internal referrals and / or external referrals. if necessary.