TEL AVIV – The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has apologized for using a photo of a child in Syria and passing it off as a Palestinian in Gaza in a fundraising campaign for the coastal enclave.
The photo depicts a young girl with a forlorn expression standing in front of rubble, apparently from a destroyed building.
The accompanying text on UNRWA’s Twitter account told the tragic circumstances in which “Aya,” purportedly a Gazan child, is being raised in.
“Imagine being cut off from the world – for your whole life. That’s reality for children like Aya. The blockade of Gaza began when she was a girl, the occupation in the West Bank before her parents were born. Now she is 11 and the blockade goes on,” the post read.
“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.”
Executive director of the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch Hillel Neuer first exposed the photo misappropriation and posted a tweet with both photos side by side along with the caption: “Left: UNRWA photo, Jan. 27, 2015, of girl in Syria. Right: Same UNRWA photo, May 29, 2017, but now she’s ‘Aya from Gaza’ oppressed by Israel.”
UNRWA then released a statement saying the use of the photo was a mistake and it had been replaced.
“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 agency said.
The statement concluded by expressing UNRWA’s hope that “people will continue to give generously to this important Ramadan campaign.”