Zakat Foundation Partners with United Nations Relief and Works Agency to Rebuild the Gaza Strip

Zakat Foundation Partners with United Nations Relief and Works Agency to Rebuild the Gaza Strip

Collaboration Aims to Restore Hundreds of Refugee Houses in Beleaguered Coastal Enclave

The Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) is partnering with the US national committee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA USA) to repair and reconstruct hundreds of houses in the Gaza Strip damaged during the 2014 summer conflict. The two NGOs are working together within the blockaded zone to provide an example of how international organizations can cooperate to advance humanitarian objectives in hard to reach communities.

Through the emergency shelter repair and reconstruction program, UNRWA has been providing assistance to over 141,000 Palestine refugees whose houses were damaged or destroyed during the assault. Reconstruction efforts in Gaza present many logistical hurdles that hinder sustained recovery. The ongoing blockade, now in its tenth year, makes the entry of construction supplies, and people, difficult, and all relief operations are funded solely through voluntary contributions. Almost three years later, only 20% of houses have been repaired or rebuilt, and only 50% have been funded.

The Gaza Strip is merely twice the size of Washington, DC, but contains the sixth highest population density in the world. Due to the blockade, which severely limits movement in and out of Gaza, unemployment among youth and the population as a whole are at unprecedented highs, 68% and 42% respectively, out of a total population of 2 million people. Additionally, a full 71% of the population of Gaza are refugees registered with UNRWA to receive humanitarian and development services.

“I visit Gaza every year, and I’ve witnessed with my own eyes the flattened neighborhood of Shejaiya and rubble strewn where houses once stood. One family whose story stayed with me had been living in an UNRWA classroom for nearly a year after they were forced to flee the bombs raining down on their house in Shejaiya. They told me of the fear and trauma they still live with each and every day,” said UNRWA USA Executive Director, Abby Smardon. “But despite the destroyed houses and the continued trauma from the ongoing blockade, the people of Gaza never give up striving for a better future.“

The enormity of the international refugee crisis has captured headlines over the last year, yet over 5 million Palestinian refugees have long been chronically marginalized. Moreover, schools, hospitals, and other public institutions are consistently deprived of the basic supplies and resources they need, making it difficult to sustain a functioning civil society for those living in the Gaza Strip.

Our partnership with ZF is proof that by collaborating, international NGOs can make a huge impact and transform the lives of those facing extreme challenges in hard to reach communities.
— Abby Smardon, Executive Director, UNRWA USA

“We’re proud that through this multi-stage project, we were able to repair twenty-two houses with minor or major damage, with an additional sixty-five scheduled to be fully restored by April 2017. It is through American partnerships like this one, that we are able to have a positive impact on the lives of refugees.”

For more information or details about ZF’s and UNRWA’s on-the-ground experience and impressions of contemporary life in Gaza, please contact us using the information below, or visit our websites at zakat.org and unrwausa.org.    

CONTACTS: ZF Public Relations Coordinator, Jamie Merchant, (708) 233-0555, jamie@zakat.org; UNRWA USA Director of Communications, Laila Mokhiber, (202) 223-3767, laila@unrwausa.org

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) donates $50,000 for food assistance in Syria

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) donates $50,000 for food assistance in Syria


WASHINGTON, DC | unrwausa.org | January 6, 2015-The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) provided a US$ 50,000 grant to UNRWA through American Friends of UNRWA (UNRWA USA) in July 2014, contributing to the critical UNRWA food assistance program for Palestine refugees in Syria. With this funding, UNRWA was able to provide parcels containing 10 days of food for 922 families (over 3,600 individuals) trapped in the besieged area of Yarmouk, Damascus. 

UNRWA and UNRWA USA thank UMCOR for this grant. “As the need for emergency humanitarian aid in Syria continues to increase, we are grateful for the generous UMCOR donation, which helps vulnerable communities in Yarmouk. We look forward to continuing this partnership beyond the current crisis to ensure Palestine refugees in Syria continue to receive the support they need,” said Abby Smardon, Executive Director of UNRWA USA. 

After four years of conflict, the Palestine refugee community in Syria is extremely vulnerable. Of the 560,000 registered Palestine refugees in Syria, 280,000 have been internally displaced and 460,000 will require continued humanitarian assistance in 2015. The UNRWA food assistance program, alongside cash assistance, is a critical intervention that helps ensure Palestine refugees meet their daily minimum food needs and bolster their resilience. 

The situation for civilians trapped in Yarmouk remains extremely grave. More than 18,000 Palestine refugees have been trapped in the area for over a year and a half, with limited access to food, water, and medical supplies. UNRWA is deeply concerned about the desperate humanitarian situation and continues to appeal to all parties to do everything in their power to end the suffering of civilians. The Agency continues to seek from all sides conditions that enable UNRWA to offer a full range of humanitarian assistance and services inside Yarmouk on a continuous, substantial and safe basis. 


The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the globe. UMCOR’s work reaches people in more than 80 countries, including the United States of America. UMCOR provides humanitarian relief when war, conflict, or natural disaster disrupt life to such an extent that communities are unable to recover on their own. 


UNRWA USA is an independent non-profit 501 (c)3 organization that provides support for UNRWA’s humanitarian work through advocacy, fundraising, and education. UNRWA USA aims to educate the general American public about the situation of Palestine refugees and generate support for UNRWA programs in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.