Karen Abu Zayd, regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for the United States and the Caribbean, was named Monday as deputy head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
Abu Zayd is a US national. She is the first woman, but not the first US citizen, named to so senior a position in the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
The United Nations spokesman said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had appointed Abu Zayd as deputy commissioner-general of UNWRA. She replaces Mohamed Abdelmoumene of Algeria, who is retiring.
Her superior, UNWRA commissioner general Peter Hansen, is a Dane.
Abu Zayd taught at Makerere University in Uganda and Juba University in Sudan before joining UNHCR 19 years ago. She has worked for UNHCR in Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Somalia. She and her Sudanese husband have two sons.
UNRWA was created in December 1949 to provide relief for Palestinians who had become refugees the previous year. It now caters for the needs of 3.5 million registered refugees throughout Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
It employs more than 22,000 local staff, most of them Palestinian refugees, and runs 650 schools, 122 health centers and dozens of community centers and other facilities across the Middle East.
Most of UNWRA's funding is through voluntary contributions from governments.
Major donors are the United States, members of the European Union and the EU as a whole, the Nordic countries, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Kuwait -- UNITED NATION (AFP)
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