21 August 2014 | Issue No. 44
UPDATE AT 16:00
The number of IDPs seeking refuge in UNRWA schools is unprecedented: 279,389 IDPs in 83 UNRWA schools.
UNRWA is providing assistance to almost 314,000 IDPs staying in UNRWA schools and in 7 government shelters in the North.
- The Palestinian civilian death toll continues to rise and is reaching unacceptable proportions. Since the night of 7 July to 21 August 2014, at least 2,030 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli air, naval and ground strikes. According to preliminary information recorded by the Protection Cluster, 1,444 – 71 per cent of all fatalities – are believed to be civilians, including 475 children and 246 women. Over the course of the military escalation it has also been reported that 66 Israelis were killed, including 64 soldiers, two civilians plus one foreign national.
- The number of IDPs seeking shelter in UNRWA installations as a result of the conduct of hostilities is unprecedented in UNRWA’s history. As the military escalation continues, Palestinians are fleeing to UNRWA schools in desperate search of a safe place for them and their families. As of last night, 261,341 Palestinians took refuge in 82 UNRWA schools. The number is expected to further increase. The anxiety, the stress caused by the constant shelling, the loss of loved ones and homes, as well as the overall lack of perspective for a life in Gaza contribute to increasing tensions in the overcrowded shelters.
- UNRWA core and emergency operations continue amidst the resumption of military activities, albeit the continued large scale provision of humanitarian assistance is at risk. Staff movement is put on hold or reduced to a minimum for field staff working in the five governorates. An unexploded 900kg bomb, which was successfully defused this morning, put the continued transfer of goods through the only functioning border crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, at risk. UNRWA staff, for example in the health centers which serve the entire Gaza population regardless of refugee status, cannot get to work or risk their lives in moving to their workplace. Amidst the shelling, 4 of UNRWA’s 12 distribution centers had to be closed yesterday. This impacts the ongoing UNRWA/WFP exceptional food distribution to support all Palestinians not currently receiving regular food aid from the two agencies. Only 39 per cent of the initially planned rations were distributed yesterday to families in desperate need of support.
- Over the 2013/14 school year, UNRWA was running three quarters of its 245 schools in morning- and afternoon shifts as there are not enough school buildings in Gaza. Out of a total 156 school buildings, 82 are currently serving as emergency shelters and are located west of the former buffer zone; that is outside of the area which was previously under Israeli control, encompassing some 43 per cent of the Gaza Strip. As of yesterday, airstrikes are increasingly directed towards targets in the remaining 57 per cent of the Gaza Strip, thus increasing the risk to the displaced sheltered in UNRWA schools. If airstrikes to the west of the former buffer zone continue, the Agency will have to consider opening emergency shelters in UXO cleared installations in the former buffer zone and potentially relocate the displaced.
- Whilst securing a permanent ceasefire is urgent, the Israeli blockade must be lifted so that Palestinians can take control of their lives instead of being trapped in a man-made cycle of aid dependency, poverty and cyclic military escalations. Pending a political solution to the Gaza crisis, the support and protection of the population in Gaza remains UNRWA’s number one priority. Thus far, UNRWA has received over USD 148 million towards the Gaza Flash Appeal. This critical support has come from donors and partners in governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector and has enabled UNRWA to continue to support emergency humanitarian interventions throughout the ongoing hostilities. UNRWA is deeply grateful to all donors and partners for their generosity in helping to alleviate human suffering.
- UNRWA continues to ensure that protection concerns are addressed in its operations and works towards accountability and justice. In coordination with other UN agencies with a protection mandate, UNRWA is looking into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the conduct of hostilities. UNRWA also strives to ensure that the rights of the displaced sheltered in the Agency’s schools are respected, in particular for vulnerable groups, including through prevention of and response to gender based violence. The Agency participated in a rapid needs assessment and is working with the Protection Cluster to identify gaps and facilitate protection partners to respond to these.
Past 24 hours: The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the return to hostilities in Gaza. Speaking to reporters on 20 August, the current president of the Security Council, United Kingdom's Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, said that “the members of the Security Council expressed grave concern regarding the loss of civilian lives and casualties. The members of the Security Council offered full support to the Egyptian initiative and called upon the parties to resume negotiations to urgently reach a sustainable and lasting ceasefire.
UNRWA staff in Gaza face the same dangers and losses as the people they are serving. Staff have lost colleagues, family members and friends, had their homes destroyed and their lives devastated.
Over the course of the military escalation, at least 475 children are reported to have been killed. One of UNRWA’s staff members, Amjad Oweida, lost two of his children under particularly tragic circumstances. On 4 August, his daughter Amal, 5 years old, and his son Mohammed, 12 years old, were killed in an airstrike in Rafah. The children had insisted to leave their temporary refuge to return home to feed the doves left behind.
Two weeks after his tragic loss, the 42-year old described the moment that scarred his life forever: “I did not know what was happening. I heard the explosion but thought a neighbor's home was hit. People were screaming. We run out of the house. Then I looked around and saw that two of my five children were missing. I ran back when I saw my brother holding my son Mohammed in his arms. He was barely breathing. At that moment my mind froze. I couldn't understand what I saw. I felt completely paralyzed.”
He frantically continued the search for his daughter and found her dead, burnt almost beyond recognition amidst the rubble. “My children were only trying to feed their doves. That’s all. I could not believe that all that was left of my beautiful daughter was something black. I picked up her body and we ran to the hospital. My son died as soon as we arrived.”
Mr. Oweida returned to work immediately to serve the displaced sheltered in his school, UNRWA’s Preparatory Boys School A in Rafah, where he normally works as a secretary. In the shelter he ensures that all 3,400 displaced get their daily food rations. “Here are people that need me too”, he said.
- 14 of 21 health centers were operating. 71 per cent of the staff reported to work, and 12,870 patients were served on 20 August.
- Under its Community Mental Health Program (CMHP), 90 UNRWA counselors reported to the shelters on 20 August. So far the CMHP has provided 16,084 sessions encompassing mental health awareness, psychosocial support for 134,819 parents (76,239 women and 58,580 men) and recreational and animation activities for 151,665 children (77,457 girls and 74,208 boys). CMHP also coordinated and supervised the implementation of 4,039 sessions by partners, covering 21,780 adult IDP’s (14,851 women and 6,929 men) and 110,292 children (54,634 boys and 55,658 girls).
- UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distributions to the shelters. 821 cubic meters of potable water were trucked, excluding the quantities supplied through bottled water. Despite the increase in IDP numbers, UNRWA was able to reach an average of 3.1 litres per person a day. In addition to drinking water, 1,087 cubic metres of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the shelters.
- UNRWA further completed an assessment of all sources of non-potable water to the shelters. All networks and wells providing water to the schools have been repaired, and all designated emergency shelters are connected either to municipality network, to a water well, or to both. Out of the current 82 shelters 77 are connected to the municipality network and 28 are receiving water from wells. However, these sources do not provide sufficient amounts of water for the displaced. In the Rafah and Gaza governorates the municipality network provides water to the shelters every two days for 2 hours at a time. In the Khan Younis governorate water is supplied every three days for 1.5 hours. In the North and Middle Area shelters receive municipality water on a daily basis.
- In addition to showers installed in the Arabic toilets in all UNRWA emergency shelters, the Agency has started to put into practice more permanent solutions to improve hygiene. In Khan Younis, two bathing areas have been established in each shelter where women and children can use bucket showers. An additional eight will be established for men. Currently, UNRWA is planning to start building external showers starting with the 16 designated emergency shelters that were identified to continue as long-term shelters for displaced who have no home to return to.
- 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 85,304 of the eligible 143,000 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice. A total of 3,884 rations were distributed yesterday in 8 out of UNRWA’s 12 distribution centers.
- UNRWA delivered 16 truckloads of non food items (mainly personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies) as well as 109 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 3,074 families.
- 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). 27,240 liters were delivered to UNICEF for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and 9,000 liters were provided to WHO.
- Of UNRWA’s Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Department, 274 staff, representing 81 per cent of the permanent sanitation staff, reported to work. Together with 367 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 317 tonnes of waste from all Gaza camps. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
Reportedly, there were 171 rockets and 68 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 118 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza in addition to 15 navy shells. 70 tank shells were fired from the fence into populated areas. Reportedly, 23 houses were bombarded.
Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 109 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014.
More information on the revised flash appeal can be found here.