This year we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities under the theme of “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world.” The COVID-19 pandemic in the previous two years caused significant disruptions in our services and imposed extraordinary hardship on refugees with disabilities. Amid a multitude of challenges, UNRWA staff showed an unparalleled level of commitment, initiative and inventiveness to ensure that our programmes design and delivery met the needs of persons with disabilities, such as through home visits and delivery of essential items during isolation and lockdowns. This proves that even under the most strenuous situations, we can find solutions for disability inclusion in our services.
In 2022, our schools are serving close to a thousand students with disabilities. More than two thousand refugees with disabilities have benefited from rehabilitation services and assistive devices. Our Health Programme conducts regular vision and hearing screenings for school children. Our services are making a real impact and I would like to thank all our staff for their effort in providing quality services and upholding the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities.
We still have a long way to go before we can fully meet the needs of all refugees with disabilities in the West Bank. We will endeavor to remove the barriers and close the gaps in our services, by strengthening our partnerships with the government and community organizations, and by empowering our staff. We will expand our disability inclusion training to ensure that our staff are well-prepared to serve persons with disabilities; we will support your ideas and initiatives on how to improve. Most importantly, we will deepen our engagement with beneficiaries with disabilities and their families, so we know how they want to be served. I take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to disability inclusion at UNRWA, as outlined in our Disability Policy 2022.