What We Do

Emergency Response

Over the past 60 years, UNRWA has always taken action to mitigate the effects of emergencies on the lives of Palestine refugees.

West Bank Emergency

In the West Bank, Palestine refugees frequently suffer from dispossession and displacement. There are increasing humanitarian concerns as well due to forced evictions in Area C and in East Jerusalem, relating to the confiscation of land; increased settlement construction; house demolitions; obstructed access to land, markets and essential services; military violence and harassment; and lack of effective law enforcement for settler attacks, all of which have serious socioeconomic and emotional consequences for Palestine refugees in both the short and the long term. In the West Bank, the number of refugees displaced has increased every year since 2010, rising to 2,920 in 2013, of whom 870 were refugees. In East Jerusalem alone, the number of refugees displaced in 2013 was eight times more than the total in 2012. 

Click here to read more about how demolitions displace Palestine refugees.
Check out the numbers for 2014 here and 2013 here.
Many of these policies undermine local livelihoods and leave a growing number of Palestine refugees vulnerable to displacement, especially in Area C (the 60 per cent of the West Bank under full Israeli control) and East Jerusalem. Displacement can have devastating social, psychological, emotional and financial consequences, including:

  • Increased poverty
  • Deteriorating health
  • Limited access to food
  • Restrictions in access to land, water, markets and essential services.

Restrictive planning and zoning in Area C has hampered economic growth in the West Bank. By the middle of 2012, the unemployment rate for Palestine refugees in the West Bank had risen to 22 per cent. The situation was worse in communities such as Biddu or Barta’a, which are especially affected by the Barrier, unemployment is estimated to be over 50 per cent, reflecting the area’s previous dependency on work in Israel and Jerusalem.
Farmers report increasing difficulties in accessing their agricultural land, much of which is now located behind the Barrier. This poses a serious threat to their income and livelihoods.
Since November 2012, an increase in confrontations has been recorded, with repeated instances of excessive use of force including the use of live ammunition and the misuse of crowd control ammunition. There has been a severe impact on Palestine refugees, with a large number of fatalities and injuries in and around the densely populated refugee camps. Of 27 Palestinians killed in 2013 during IDF operations, 17 were Palestine refugees. In August 2013, an UNRWA staff member was killed during an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in Kalandia camp.

Click here to read more about the increase in the use of force since 2012. 
Check out the numbers here.

 In recent years, settler violence has also increased significantly.   Additionally, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.  Between 2009 and 2011, settler violence in the West Bank increased by 26 per cent, from 464 incidents in 2009 to 586 in 2011.  In 2012, there were 739 incidents resulting in 118 Palestinian casualties and 359 incidents of property damage.

How is UNRWA helping?

UNRWA emergency relief work in the West Bank focuses on the specific needs of particularly vulnerable Palestine refugee groups, such as groups at risk of displacement, herders, women, and persons with disabilities.

Beginning in 2013, we are working to improve our approach to unemployment and food insecurity by prioritizing livelihood support and sustainable income-generation activities. We will also prioritize the delivery of key humanitarian activities in Area C, East Jerusalem and the Seam Zone, especially in support of communities at risk of displacement. The Agency will, in addition, stabilize critical programmes that were set up as part of a temporary response to the humanitarian situation, but which are now deemed essential.


UNRWA operates mobile health clinics to serve Palestine refugees who have limited access to health care due to movement restrictions and economic constraints. Six clinics serve more than 50 isolated locations in the West Bank and provide around 140,000 consultations per year. Both curative and preventive health services are provided including maternal health, well-baby checks, mental health support and screening for non-communicable diseases.

Mobile Community Mental Health 

UNRWA operates mobile community mental health clinics in vulnerable Bedouin communities in Area C and East Jerusalem. Teams visit on a weekly basis and provide individual, family and group counselling, psychosocial support groups and activites (especially for children and youth) and conduct awareness campaigns and support trainings for Bedouin Community Committees.

Job creation

Job creation is the main tool for providing emergency support to food insecure Palestine refugee families. UNRWA offers temporary cash for work opportunities in camps, villages and remote locations of the West Bank. This injects money directly into the household economy and allows beneficiaries the choice to spend the cash in whatever way best meets their basic needs. Camps and communities also benefit from the programme with improved infrastructure and services. The Job Creation labourers do a wide variety of work including construction; cleaning and rehabiliting land, parks and public spaces; and supporting community-based organizations, disability centres and women’s centres. Special focus is given to creating work opportunities for women, people with disability and refugees in communities facing protection threats.

Food assistance

UNRWA partners with the World Food Program to provide emergency food distributions to Bedouin and herding communities in Area C. The food aid helps the poorest Palestine refugee families meet their basic food needs so their household finances can be directed towards livelihood expenses such as fodder and water for livestock.


In the West Bank, UNRWA seeks to monitor and promote an end to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that affect Palestine refugees. We provide emergency cash assistance to Palestine refugees whose property is damaged or demolished, while also intervening with local authorities, raising awareness and mobilizing international stakeholders.

Environmental health

To ensure that Palestine refugees have access to safe, adequate water supplies, UNRWA is repairing damaged water systems in the Palestine refugee camps. The Agency is also providing sanitation services, such as sewerage and drainage systems, to those Palestine refugee camps not adequately served by local authorities.