UN agency uses photo of Syrian girl in Gaza Ramadan appeal

Girl seen in front of bombed out house, but the house was in Damascus, not Gaza


The UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees has apologised after its charity appeal on behalf of Gaza residents published a picture of a child in war-torn Syria alongside a claim that she was from the Strip.

In Facebook and Twitter advertisements, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (Unwra) used a picture of a young girl standing in front of a bombed out house.

“Imagine being cut off from the world – for your whole life,” the ad reads. “That’s reality for children like Aya. The blockade of Gaza began when she was a baby, the occupation in the West Bank before her parents were born. Now she is 11, and the blockade goes on.

“Aya’s childhood memories are of conflict and hardship, walls she cannot escape, and the fear that the only home she knows, however tiny, could be gone when she returns from school.

“This Ramadan, please help support children like Aya who have known nothing but conflict and hardship.”

However, it was quickly pointed out that Unwra had tweeted the image back in 2015, in reference to a story on Syria. The organisation also used the image on web pages describing the conflict in Syria, and it was used in an Unwra report on the Syria conflict in which the picture was captioned as a young girl standing “in the rubble of Qabr Essit, near Damascus”.

In a statement published on the organisation’s website, Unwra said: “As soon as issues relating to a photograph in our Ramadan campaign were brought to our attention we looked into the matter. We had mistakenly posted an image from our archive of a child in Syria and had said that the child was in Gaza.”

The statement went on to say that the picture had been replaced.

The UN Watch NGO had called for Pierre Krahenbuhl, the commissioner general for Unwra, to apologise. After the UN agency’s statement, Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch in Geneva, noted that there had been no direct apology from Mr Krahenbuhl or Chris Gunness, the spokesman for Unwra.

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