Washington, DC; 28 April 2016: Providing aid and bolstering development in a region that has been a perennial conflict zone since 1948 is both demanding and rewarding. United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) has managed to do just that with a small dedicated staff and supporters since their founding in 1978 by a group of successful Palestinian-American professionals in New York. Focus Washington’s Chuck Conconi sat down with UPA’s Executive Director Saleem Zaru to learn more about the organization and its operations.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don't have a secure food source. UPA's Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don’t have a secure food source. UPA’s Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families. (Photo credit: UPA)

Zaru discussed the challenges of working under the constant state of emergency, noting that providing relief often consumes a great deal of time and funding, as opposed to being able to focus on development. One of the founding principles of UPA was to contribute to socioeconomic and cultural development in Palestine, but immediate needs to provide food aid, medical care (including psychological care for trauma victims) and basic needs like clothing and hygiene products sometimes take precedence.

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

In spite of the ongoing violence and emergency situations, UPA has made remarkable inroads in anticipating and instituting programs that help Palestinians become more independent so their situations do not perpetuate reliance on charity. Whether through micro-finance programs that launch small entrepreneurial start-ups, scholarships that advance education to better position Palestinians for employment, or partnerships programs like the Embracing Life campaign which is bringing Cleft Lip and Palate surgical and nursing training to West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with the Craniofacial Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

When asked about how programs like UPA can address extremism, Zaru stated that giving someone the opportunity to put food on their table and support their family creates hope, and hope is the best way to fight the lure of extremism.

Zaru’s dream for UPA is that they would go out of business because there is no more need and Palestinians live under normal conditions. Until that time comes, UPA will continue delivering hope to the people in Palestine and the refuge camps.

To learn more about United Palestinian Appeal, visit their website at: http://helpupa.org/

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