7 August 2014 | Issue No. 30
If the ceasefire is extended, UNRWA shelter assessment outside the buffer zone will start on Sunday and will take months to complete. Of serious concern is the access regime imposed by the Government of Israel, as there is no construction material available on the local market.
Past 24 hours: The temporary ceasefire, which will expire Friday 8 August 2014 at 08:00, is holding. At the time of writing it is uncertain whether the temporary ceasefire will be extended; and whether an extended ceasefire will lead to a political solution, including the lifting of the Israeli blockade. A return to violence as of tomorrow is still a possibility.
The number of IDPs in UNRWA shelters has declined from a peak of almost 273,000 on the evening of 4 August to 171,240 displaced this morning 7 August. 89 UNRWA shelters remain open. Whilst this seems to represent a dramatic decrease, the Agency is struggling to cope with the provision of water, food, and non food items on a daily basis. Based on historical patterns, UNRWA was ready to accommodate up to 50,000 people for couple of days, but not five times that number over almost one month. The Agency expects that a large number of displaced will have to remain in UNRWA shelters for an extended period of time, as they have nowhere else to go. In order to be able to open the schools again, the Agency plans to designate five schools per governorate as more permanent shelters. School start is planned for 24 August. UNRWA expects over 230,000 students for the new school year, and potentially many more if government schools do not reopen. For those displaced staying in the 25 schools, UNRWA will be responsible to provide humanitarian aid on a daily basis, requiring also for example more permanent solutions to the current hygiene facilities.
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) continues their assessment of UNRWA installations in the former buffer zone, which encompassed 43 per cent of the Gaza Strip. On 7 August, due to time constraints and with limited staffing on the ground, only six out of the identified eight locations could be assessed. Three of the six locations require further assessment. As the area was subject to heavy shelling, UNMAS will deploy additional teams to Gaza so that the clearance can be done faster. Subsequent to UNMAS clearance, the Agency’s Camp Improvement and Infrastructure teams will assess the damage to UNRWA facilities in the former buffer zone, and at a later stage assess damage of refugee shelters.
On 6 August, UNRWA’s engineers concluded an initial assessment of damage to most of UNRWA facilities outside the former buffer zone (57 per cent of the Gaza Strip). The level of destruction is far less severe than in the buffer zone. If the ceasefire is extended, UNRWA plans to start shelter assessment as of Sunday. The assessment of refugee shelters outside the buffer zone is expected to take at least 4 months. Of serious concern is that there is no construction material available on the local market.
With the ceasefire holding, senior United Nations officials urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. In an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “This ceasefire has come at a price that is almost too much to bear.” He said that the massive death and destruction in Gaza “have shocked and shamed the world.” He also conveyed a personal and direct message to the UN staff members working in Gaza, noting that UN flags around the world will be flown at half-mast in memory of the colleagues killed. “Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for saving lives,” said Mr. Ban, stressing that attacks against UN premises, along with other suspected breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl addressed the General Assembly, stating that the temporary ceasefire has allowed the full extent of the staggering and catastrophic human cost of the war to become fully visible. He stated: “Should the current cease-fire hold, the situation presents UNRWA, the wider UN family, as well as other agencies working in Gaza, with formidable human challenges to address in coming months. There will be ongoing emergency humanitarian and recovery needs for hundreds of thousands of people, be it those remaining in shelters, those going home and seeking to rebuild their lives or those having no home to go back to. This requires food aid to families unable to meet their needs, and emergency employment to inject modest resources into households whose income and savings have been utterly depleted - while also providing a labor force to contribute to the clearing and repairing of damaged infrastructure. Hygiene and sanitation are at risk throughout the densely-populated territory, and under these circumstances disease outbreaks are becoming a serious concern.”
On 6th August, 98 UNRWA counselors reported to work, covering all shelters. So far, UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme has served over 80,000 parents and engaged over 87,000 children in recreational activities. UNRWA also cooperates with partners, providing additional support to over 6,200 displaced and to over 43,000 children.
Kerem Shalom crossing was open.