05 August 2014 | Issue No. 28
The ceasefire is holding. IDPs are leaving the UNRWA shelters, at least temporarily. Details to follow in tomorrow’s update.
Past 24 hours: A 72 hour humanitarian ceasefire, accepted by Israel and Palestinian factions, was announced to start as of 5 August 08:00hrs. During this period, the parties will meet in Cairo to discuss permanent solutions. As of this morning 08:00hrs, UNRWA had no confirmation of withdrawal of the ground troops and will continue coordination with the IDF for any potential movement within the three kilometer buffer zone, encompassing 43 percent of the entire Gaza Strip. If the ceasefire holds, teams of the will undertake a preliminary assessment of UNRWA installations within the buffer zone. Priority will be given to closed UN installations, such as schools, food distribution and health centers.
Whilst emergency operations are ongoing and humanitarian needs are under revision, UNRWA is undertaking planning for the next months and years. Of most imminent concern is the start of the new school year, planned for 24 August 2014. 90 of UNRWA’s 156 school buildings serve as shelters, and the remaining schools are either within the buffer zone or otherwise inaccessible. The military escalation and level of destruction is unprecedented, and the future of the Gaza Strip is entirely uncertain. The war hit Gaza at a time of a governance vacuum, with a National Consensus Government in place since 2 June 2014 which had never assumed power. The challenges remain huge, ranging from salary payments to staff including the police and teachers, who have not seen full salaries for one year, to border security, electricity and water supply. If the end of hostilities does not come with a policy change to the Israeli blockade, there is no more hope for Gaza. Exports need to be allowed and construction material needs to come in to rebuilt homes and infrastructure. Palestinians need access to traditional markets, to fishing areas and land. People need to be able to leave the Gaza Strip.
Darwish Ibrahim Gharbawi, a school principal from an UNRWA school in Jabalia, manages the Fakhura Preparatory school shelter in the North of the Gaza Strip. At the onset of the crisis, it was estimated the school could absorb a maximum of 1,100 people for a couple of days. With the conflict in its fourth week, 4,045 displaced Palestinians are currently seeking refuge in the school, with UNRWA staff struggling to cater for their needs on a daily basis.
Mr. Gharabawi says: “About 32 UNRWA staff, including social workers, teachers and counselors, are present every day and every night. We are working 12-hour shifts to accommodate as many families as we can and as best we can. On a daily basis, we leave our own families behind to serve those seeking protection in our school. We are all terrified since the shelling of the UN Jabalia school, and fear our cars could be hit in an airstrike.” Mr. Gharabawi finds that water supply and the sanitation facilities are a major challenge in his school, and worries every day whether there will be enough bread for the displaced as bakeries in Gaza are facing major supply issues.
Every day, the shelter receives food which is distributed by UNRWA staff per classroom population. Food and non food items are stored in a designated room at the school, and individuals have to present their shelter registration cards, which contain details of the family, including issues requiring special care and attention. UNRWA staff, including social workers and health staff, also promote personal hygiene and provide support should any specific health issue arise. In his school, explains Mr. Gharabawi, particularly small children between 1 and 4 years suffer from gastroenteritis, including vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Despite the immense workload, UNRWA staff are trying to pay special attention to those sometimes forgotten during times of crisis. Staff caters for displaced with special needs, such as patients with chronic diseases, requiring for example transfer to hospitals through UNRWA ambulances, and provide diapers for those that cannot use the toilets, such as people with disabilities or the elderly. UNRWA also provides psychological and psychosocial support. "UNRWA counselors and local organizations offer toys, engage children in games and other physical and recreational activities to release their tension and fears”, says Mr. Gharabawi
13 of 21 health centers were operating. 68 per cent of the staff were able to report to work, and 17,357 patients were served. UNRWA medication, including vaccinations, were secured from the closed health centers. A share of the medication is unusable as there was no electricity to provide required refrigeration. Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) is provided to IDPs who suffer from viral gastroenteritis, and posters on promoting health and personal hygiene are put up in shelters. UNRWA also set up separate rooms in shelters for patients requiring specific post hospitalization care.
Reportedly, there were 92 rockets and 30 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 32 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza in addition to 25 navy shells. 178 tank shells were fired from the border area into populated areas. Reportedly, 7 houses were bombarded.
Two additional UNRWA installations were reported damaged during this period. UNRWA estimates that 97 installations have been damaged since 8 July in 140 strikes, including 11 direct strikes.
Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification.
UNRWA has launched the second revision of its emergency flash appeal. The Agency now requires a total of US$ 187.6 million in order to provide emergency assistance for a revised scenario of up to 250,000 people displaced for a period of up to eight weeks.
More information on the revised appeal can be found here.
Kerem Shalom crossing was open.