19 August 2014 | Issue No. 42
UPDATE AT 16:30
- The ceasefire was broken. 3 rockets were reportedly fired this afternoon from Gaza. There are reports of Israeli airstrikes in North, Gaza, Middle and Khan Younis.
- Last night, the 5 days ceasefire was extended by another 24 hours to continue the Egypt mediated talks between Palestine and Israel in Cairo. The uncertainty about a potential resumption of hostilities, and the fear of a return to the status quo of the blockade, continue to have a severe impact on the population of Gaza. Palestinians feel that, even if they are lucky enough to survive, there is nothing to look forward to and there is no future in the Gaza Strip. Lifting the blockade and ending the collective punishment of the Gaza population is imperative.
- Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, said yesterday in his briefing to the UN Security Council that while the temporary ceasefire has granted civilians a reprieve for the past days, “it has taken too much time, and too many lives to achieve.” He stated it remained his “conviction that we must not leave Gaza in the condition it was in before this latest escalation. Otherwise, the restrictions on the Strip – on exit and entry of goods and people – will continue to fuel instability, underdevelopment and conflict, and I am afraid the next escalation will be just a matter of time.”
- Today marks World Humanitarian Day, an annual occasion dedicated by the UN General Assembly to recognize humanitarian personnel and those who have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. In his statement, James Rawley, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, commemorated the 30 Palestinian colleagues, including 11 UNRWA personnel, which have been killed in the line of duty over the past weeks. He stated: “In paying tribute to our colleagues who lost their lives and to the tens of thousands of Palestinians who are working to help others affected by the devastating conflict, we must also shout loud and clear that enough is enough - that this endless cycle of violence must stop. We must demand that the parties to the conflict agree a permanent ceasefire and ensure the blockade is lifted in a manner that ensures the rights of Palestinians and addresses Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”
- Yesterday, the UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl concluded his visit to Gaza. On the third day of the visit, he continued meeting families of UNRWA personnel killed to share memories and moving tribute to the Agency. The Agency’s statement on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day praises the unwavering courage of its staff in the face of a devastating military offensive on the Gaza Strip: “Putting themselves in harm’s way to continue providing emergency and regular services such as health care, sanitation services, food distribution and psychosocial support, our staff in Gaza have our deepest gratitude and respect.”
- The past weeks witnessed the largest displacement in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, with one third of the total population displaced at the peak of hostilities. As of yesterday afternoon, over 238,000 IDPs were sheltered in 81 UNRWA schools, and with the expiry of the 5 days ceasefire immanent, many more Palestinians living close to the fence fled to UNRWA shelters over night searching for safety.
- Pending a lasting ceasefire, which will allow the UNRWA engineers to undertake shelter assessments, it is estimated that about 100,000 Palestinians have lost their homes. Based on these figures, UNRWA is expecting some 65,000 to 70,000 Palestinian to stay in the UNRWA schools as they have no home and nowhere to return. Whilst the Agency designated emergency shelters in each governorate for the potentially long term displaced, the Agency is urgently looking for donors who can support cash assistance to cover rental expenses to enable those who lost everything to re-start a life in dignity. In the meantime, UNRWA will do everything to protect the displaced in the schools, which are not designed to serve as long term shelters, and to provide the displaced with food, water and non-food items.
Since the last update, the Protection Cluster has recorded one additional fatality. According to UN information, the cumulative death toll among Palestinians stands at 1976. 1417 are believed to be civilians, including 459 children and 239 women.
Past 24 hours: Besides the incessant sound of drones, calm prevailed over the Gaza Strip. People are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Cairo talks.
With another short term ceasefire in place, and no solution in sight for an end to the current conflict, UNRWA is doing what it can to meet the needs of Palestinians in Gaza. Since 13 July, internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been sheltering in UNRWA schools. The Agency continues to prioritize the health and safety of the displaced, including through the provision of water for drinking, cleaning, washing and hygiene purposes.
The Gaza Strip relies on water supply from the underlying aquifer which has been over pumped for decades. By 2020 at the latest, Gaza will be effectively without water. Most of Gaza's households have little or no water supply, and if available, the water is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Providing sufficient water to the displaced in UNRWA schools and to other displaced in government facilities is a daily challenge for the Agency, requiring close coordination between UNRWA, private suppliers, municipalities and partners.
Water is trucked to shelters at least twice a day. The drinking water tanks UNRWA provided across its shelters are managed by area water focal points, and water quality focal points (WQFPs). Each WQFP is responsible for an average of five shelters. When the trucks arrive at UNRWA schools, the WQFP checks the chlorine levels of potable water before filling the drinking tanks. Over the course of 18 August, and in cooperation with partners and donors, 708.6 cubic meters of potable water were trucked to the shelters. This brings the potable water supply to approximately 2.8 litres per person per day, excluding bottled water delivered to the shelters in areas where the capacity of water suppliers is insufficient. Yesterday, UNRWA also distributed more than 200 pallets of mineral water to all designated emergency shelters in the Gaza Strip. In addition to drinking water, 829 cubic meters of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to shelters which have no access to other water sources. IDPs use this water for washing, cleaning and hygiene purposes, helping to maintain the health of their families and their surroundings.
Mr. Khaled Al Arqan, an UNRWA teacher, is in charge of the shelter at Rimal Preparatory Girls School in Gaza, which hosts 2,440 IDPs from the Shajaiya area, in Eastern Gaza. “We do our best to provide safe water, which is crucial for having a clean and healthy environment in our shelters,” he said. In the framework of UNRWA’s hygiene and water campaign, all UNRWA shelters have now formed IDP hygiene and water committees, facilitated by university students and graduates hired by UNRWA under the Job Creation Programme.
Ms Rahma Abu Harbid, an UNRWA personnel, is in charge of hygiene committees in four shelters. “The hygiene conditions of IDPs have improved since the forming of the hygiene committees, and the activities include cleaning all facilities such as classrooms, toilets, and yards,” she said.
The hygiene and water committees regularly hold awareness sessions to help people understand and develop good hygiene practices to prevent disease and promote positive attitudes towards good health and responsible water consumption.
Nineteen year old Manar Abu Ajour is taking refuge in an UNRWA school after fleeing from Shajaiya. She has seen an improvement in the cleanliness of the shelter since the formation of the committee. “We are taught to rationalize water consumption as water is crucial for our personal hygiene. We use the available water for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes and washing classrooms, and we are pleased with the hygiene standards at our shelter as we believe in our culture that cleanliness is next to godliness,” Ms Abu Ajour said.
- In addition to considerable improvements in terms of public health and hygiene in UNRWA shelters, the Agency strives to continue regular activities to provide a healthy living environment for Palestinians. Amongst those regular activities run by the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Department are the cleaning campaigns in the eight refugee camps across the Gaza Strip. In 2014, six cleaning campaigns were held in Jabalia Camp, including 2 during temporary ceasefires over the past weeks. UNRWA provides the equipment, such as wheel loaders, tractors, and crane trucks, and staff, and volunteers from the camp and the neighborhoods get together to clean the sidewalks and public spaces. Over the course of the conflict, the sanitation staff has continued to work tirelessly to remove garbage from the camps and to man the 11 water wells in the camps. Yesterday, 293 staff, representing 87 per cent of the permanent sanitation staff, reported to work. Together with 397 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 321 tonnes of waste from all Gaza camps. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations, such as plumbing and electricity work.
- Dedicated health teams continue working in all UNRWA shelters and compile a daily health surveillance report to prevent a large scale outbreak of diseases. The health surveillance report includes 16 health issues of concern, up from an initial 9. Included is bloody diarrhea, diarrhea for under/above 5 years old, typhoid fever, acute viral hepatitis, cholera suspected/confirmed, measles, scabies, impetigo, lice, acute flaccid paralysis, viral meningitis suspected/confirmed, acute respiratory infection and mumps.
- In partnership with WFP and the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNRWA continued the exceptional food distribution to all families not currently receiving regular food aid from the two agencies. Since 11 August 73,114 of the eligible 143,000 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice. A total of 10,036 rations were distributed yesterday in all 12 UNRWA distribution centres.
- UNRWA delivered 15 truckloads of non food items as well as 62 truckloads of food to shelters in cooperation with WFP.
- UNRWA’s regular food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. Food rations were provided to 4,173 families through all 12 UNRWA distribution centers.
- 14 of 21 health centers were operating. 94 per cent of the staff reported to work, and 19,685 patients were served.
- UNRWA also continued to provide its logistics capacity to supply fuel to municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities through the WASH and Health clusters (led by UNICEF and WHO). 48,240 liters were delivered to UNICEF for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and 90,000 liters were provided to WHO.
UNRWA estimates that 108 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014. Out of the 108 installations, 62 have been inspected by UNMAS, with 59 installations cleared for UNRWA engineers to conduct assessments. With thousands of unexploded weapons littered across the Gaza Strip, unexploded ordnance is posing life-threatening risks to the population. Training of UNRWA staff on explosive remnants of war started yesterday in Rafah and will continue today in Khan Younis.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
No major incidents were reported.
Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 103 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014.
More information on the revised flash appeal can be found here.