SATURDAY: Funding Crisis for UN Agency Serving Refugees Unites NYC Runners

March 19, 2018


Samantha Kupferman, Marathon Strategies
samanthak@marathonstrategies.com; Office: (212) 256-9843; Cell: (202) 215-9260

Laila Mokhiber, UNRWA USA Director of Communications
laila@unrwausa.org; Office: 202-223-1220

SATURDAY: Funding Crisis for UN Agency Serving Refugees Unites NYC Runners
1,200+ expected to participate in fourth annual NYC Gaza 5K at Prospect Park

NEW YORK – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the only agency with a UN mandate to provide critical social services in the Gaza Strip, is in peril due to the US government’s decision to drastically cut financial support. On Saturday, March 24, supporters of Palestine refugees will gather at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to participate in the fourth annual NYC Gaza 5K.

The event, hosted by UNRWA USA, an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization that supports UNRWA’s humanitarian and development work, raises awareness of and fundraises for programs addressing Palestine refugees’ mental health. All proceeds will benefit the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme in the Gaza Strip, under threat due to the US government’s funding freeze.

UNRWA provides education, health care, relief and social services, microfinance, and emergency assistance to a population that has grown to five million Palestine refugees across the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. The US government recently and unexpectedly announced it would cut anticipated funding to UNRWA, disbursing only $60 million of its expected 2018 contribution of more than $360 million to the only UN agency dedicated to caring for Palestine refugees.

“UNRWA developed the Community Mental Health Programme in Gaza to address a growing psychosocial epidemic among Palestine refugees caused by severe stress resulting from a decade of blockade, three conflicts, and the uncertainty of the future in the region,” said Peter Mulrean, Director of UNRWA’s Representative Office in New York. “Our counselors, psychosocial facilitators, and legal advisors in UNRWA schools and health centers help ease the emotional burden experienced by refugees in Gaza.

“Their jobs, and our on the ground operations more broadly, are at risk, however. The United States’ reduction of its expected annual contribution by 83% this year endangers this program – and every other UNRWA program. The NYC Gaza 5K is more vital now than ever as we raise awareness of the funding crisis impacting the lives of vulnerable, innocent people, and as we work to garner support here and across the globe.”

The event is open to the media, and interview opportunities are welcome. Please contact samanthak@marathonstrategies.com for details.



WHEN: Saturday, March 24, 2018

9 am – Children’s activities begin
9:45 am – Opening remarks
10 am – Race kicks off
11 am – Closing ceremony and dabke dance party with DJ Fatin

WHERE: Prospect Park’s Grecian Shelter, 95 Parkside Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11218


  • UNRWA USA supporters
  • Peter Mulrean, Director of UNRWA’s Representative Office in New York, who will deliver opening remarks and be available for media interviews

  • Abby Smardon, Executive Director of UNRWA USA, available for media interviews

WHY: To support UNRWA programs addressing Palestine refugees’ mental health

Competitive awards will be given to the top female and male runners in the following age categories: 1-12, 13-19, 20-39, 40-59, and 60+. Trophies will be awarded for coolest costume, dopest “dabke” dancer, most creative team name, biggest crew, cutest four-legged participant, top fundraiser, top fundraising team, and most team spirit.

The 2018 NYC Gaza 5K is made possible through the participation of volunteers and community groups, including the Arab American Association of New York, Muppies NYC, Muslims Thrive, PCRF - New Jersey, the Network of Arab American Professionals (NAAP-NY), IM WISE, the Palestinian American Community Center (PACC), and Tatreez & Tea.

Major sponsors include Qatar Foundation International (QFI) and Balady Foods. Race details are available at gaza5k.org.



UNRWA USA is an independent nonprofit organization that provides support for the humanitarian work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). UNRWA USA aims to educate the general American public about the situation of Palestine refugees and generate support for UNRWA’s programs. US taxpayers are eligible for tax deductions for donations made through UNRWA USA.

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