Gaza Situation Report 50

28 August 2014
Gaza Situation Report 50

27 August 2014 | Issue No. 50

UPDATE AS OF 16:30hrs

As of this afternoon, almost 233,000 IDPs had left the UNRWA shelters. The number of IDPs staying in UNRWA shelters is 54,261. 78 shelters remained open. Over the next couple of days UNRWA is expecting the IDP numbers to stabilize. It is still premature to draw conclusions on the number of IDPs who would opt to remain in the shelters for a longer period of time and those who may be able to return to their homes. It remains to be seen, for example, how many of the IDPs today left temporarily to gather personal items from their homes and would return to the UNRWA shelters for the night. 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • On the 50th day of the military escalation, an open-ended ceasefire has been agreed between Palestine and Israel and came into effect on 26 August at 19:00hrs. UNRWA joins the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in welcoming yesterday’s announcement of an open-ended ceasefire for Gaza, brokered under Egyptian auspices. At this sensitive juncture, it is critical not to lose sight of the ultimate imperative of tackling the root causes underlying the repeated cycles of violence, including an end to the blockade, an opening of all crossings and an end to rocket fire. Anything short of the lifting of the seven-year blockade on Gaza will not lead to a sustainable ceasefire, which is what is needed to restore a life of normalcy to the Palestinians in Gaza, including the over 1.2 million Palestine refugees. The ceasefire must be a prelude to a political process as the only way of achieving durable peace. A cease-fire with a return to conditions that existed in Gaza before this round of fighting will not be enough. Nowhere in the world does humanitarian assistance make up for the denial of rights and dignity. This is the time for comprehensive action to resolve the underlying issues at stake in Gaza and in the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Echoing the statement by the Secretary-General, both parties must return to meaningful negotiations towards a final status agreement that addresses all the cores issues and ends the 47-year occupation. It is time for the people of Gaza to be given the chance to build their lives and it is time for the people of Palestine to live normal lives. 
  • Hoping the ceasefire will hold and will be followed by a more permanent solution, the Agency continued its humanitarian assistance and restarted early recovery activities. Planning for consolidation of UNRWA shelters is ongoing and it is hoped that in the next few days the Agency will have a better understanding of the IDPs who opted to stay in UNRWA schools because their homes were rendered uninhabitable and they have no alternative shelter. UNRWA 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, either by renting accommodation or by supporting a host family to provide shelter. In the meantime, UNRWA will do everything to support the displaced in the schools, which are not designed to serve as long term shelters, and to provide them with food, water and non-food items. Subsequent to unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance of the vacant schools, cleaning and repair works will start to prepare for the new school year which will start in coordination with the Ministry of Education once the situation stabilizes. Shelter assessment is scheduled to begin next week in coordination with UN partners and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.
  • UNRWA participated in the inter-agency Protection Initial Rapid Assessment (IRA) for each of the Gaza Governorates to ensure a joint evaluation of needs to help inform a coordinated response to protection concerns in Gaza. The preliminary findings of the IRA provide a snapshot of the key needs based on the perceptions of key interlocutors. The results from the preliminary analysis will form the basis upon which essential and necessary responses will be planned for and addressed. A significant finding is the growing incidence of psychosocial distress and mental disorders of boys, girls, men, and women, brought about the ongoing hostilities and unprecedented internal displacement in Gaza affecting more than a quarter of the total population. Whilst psychosocial support is provided, such as in the UNRWA emergency shelters and through the health centers, more specialized services will be required for an anticipated high caseload. The child protection working group and UNICEF estimate that about 373,000 children might require direct and specialized psychosocial support. The high presence of Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) in and around demolished neighborhoods is not only an ongoing threat to civilians but will also impede displaced persons from being able to go home safely. UN installations, including schools, are also scattered with ERWs. The separation of children from their families or usual caregivers is also among the worrying trends observed. While there are no exact figures for the number of such children, individual identification of them will be prioritized. The high prevalence of cases in which the majority of members of the same family have been killed, in many cases entire families, is deeply disturbing. As of 25 August, it is estimated that at least 142 families lost three or more members of the same family, for a total of 739 individuals. The increasing challenges faced by children, adolescents, women and elderly people at serious risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation, including sexual and gender based violence, will require targeted and coordinated approaches to ensure harm minimization and protection. A key priority is case detection and referral systems in UNRWA installations. The manner in which hostilities were conducted by all parties to the conflict, has seriously affected not only the physical infrastructure of Gaza, but is progressively destroying the social fabric and traditional coping mechanisms of Palestinians in Gaza. UNRWA is working together with UN organizations and other partners to ensure that all major protection concerns are identified, prevented and addressed to secure the basic rights of Palestinians. UNRWA is planning to address as many of the protection needs of Palestine refugees, especially those in the shelters, and work with the Protection Clusters to fill the gaps in the needs identified by the assessment.

GENERAL

Past 24 hours: The cumulative death toll among Palestinians is at least 2,101, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 376 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established. Of the initially verified cases, 1,460 are believed to be civilians, including 493 children and 253 women, and 265 members of armed groups. Approximately 25 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have reportedly been killed in Gaza by armed groups since 21 August. These have not been included in the fatality toll above.

According to reports, the ceasefire provisions include a number of immediate steps and long term issues to be addressed within a month from now. Gunfire erupted at 1900 on 26 August to celebrate the ceasefire. However, reports indicate Palestinians are very concerned that the unprecedented destruction in Gaza, which ended last night, will not be followed by a political solution to address the blockade and violence may resume.

UNRWA RESPONSE

50 days of military escalation in Gaza have made it even more difficult for people to provide enough food for their families. The Israeli blockade on Gaza has not resulted in shortage of food commodities, as basic goods can enter. The problem is that nothing can go out; there is no access to markets, thus starving the previously dynamic and export-oriented economy of opportunity. 65 per cent of the population is 24 years old or younger, and before the military escalation youth unemployment stood at a staggering 65 per cent. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of Palestine refugees coming to UNRWA for regular food aid has increased from less than 80,000 to over 830,000 today. For Palestinians in Gaza food has become even less affordable as they have not been able to earn an income during the war, whilst for others the hosting of displaced relatives and friends means that they have extra people to feed.

Right now the entire population of the Gaza Strip is receiving food aid through regular food assistance, including the 830,000 UNRWA caseload, food provision to shelters and through the exceptional food distribution. As part of its humanitarian response activities, UNRWA and WFP have partnered to provide this one-time exceptional food parcels to more than 143,000 families across the Gaza Strip. The distribution is designed for those not already receiving regular food assistance from either organization, and is being coordinated with the Ministry of Social Affairs. The initiative is a joint effort to help ensure sufficient access to food for people in Gaza and also serves to inject much needed essential commodities into the local market.

The one-time food parcels consist of 10kgs of rice and 30kgs of flour and provide approximately 44 per cent of an average family’s calorie needs for a month. UNRWA’s 12 Distribution Centres (DCs), if open due to ongoing hostilities, have been providing parcels to families since 11 August, every afternoon except Fridays. UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services (RSS) Offices have been working with the DC teams to process beneficiaries eligible for food assistance.

This operation has not been without challenges, as security concerns have forced some DCs to close early or not open at all on more than one occasion. Even so, the teams have already managed to provide more than 107,000 parcels to families and will continue the distribution until every eligible family has picked up their ration.

Jabalia RSS Office is working with Jabalia DC distributing exceptional food assistance parcels for the populations in the north of Gaza. The Office has already distributed food rations to more than 11,400 families.

One of UNRWA’s staff members involved in the distribution is RSSP Social Worker, Alla Husein, who says: “Families rushed to the RSSP office to receive their food aid, which indicates that they are in dire need of food aid like this. Flour and rice are the main food commodities for people in Gaza.” Mr. Husein  is a member of the  team which is at the forefront of the exceptional food distribution process. Approximately five RSS staff are responsible for checking the identification documents of beneficiaries prior to picking up the food parcels.

RSS has set up a complaints desk at each distribution centre, which is manned by two additional staff members. The RSS team also manages an SMS notification system to respond to complaints. After checking each complaint against the database of eligible families, an SMS is sent to beneficiaries via their mobile phone, notifying them of whether their complaint resulted in eligibility for a food parcel or not. “We organize work by having separate windows for males and females and another window for complaints,” said Alla. 

Each of UNRWA’s distribution centres also employ eight staff, with an additional twenty-two workers under its Job Creation Program (JCPs), which was expanded specifically for the exceptional food distribution initiative. These staff members are responsible for distributing the rations to beneficiaries, and for communicating updates. UNRWA and WFP produced specific signage and messaging to ensure that beneficiaries understood each step of the process. A local “hotline” telephone number was also established for the purpose.

Maher Sammur is 66 years old and visited Jabalia DC to collect his food parcel and has been struggling to access food for the 22 members of his family during the conflict. “We suffer from very hard economic conditions,” he explained. “This is very important aid as it provides the family with flour and rice. During the war I had to wait for hours to get bread from the bakery, but now I will be able to make bread in my house and avoid the suffering of getting bread from outside.”

All eligible families are receiving the same size parcel, distributed on designated days based on family size. Another beneficiary, Ahmad Al Maqusi, is a 32 year old refugee from Jabalia Camp and received a parcel for his family of six. “I am a university graduate teacher, but I am currently unemployed and have no source of income to support my children,” he said. “I used to get flour from my mother, especially during the war as we could not afford to buy flour for the family.  I am very happy with this aid which came right on time.” 


  • UNRWA delivered 23 truckloads of non food items as well as 50 truckloads of food to shelters in cooperation with WFP.
  • 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 107,433 of the eligible 143,000 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice, representing 75 per cent of the total eligible families. On 26 August, 4,086 rations were distributed yesterday in 11 of 12 UNRWA distribution centres.
  • UNRWA’s regular food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. Food rations were provided to 3,154 families through UNRWA distribution centers.
  • All mothers of babies born since the military escalation started received maternity packages (303 girls, 368 boys).
  • 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). 72,000 liters were delivered to UNICEF for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU).
  • UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distributions to the shelters. 1,264 cubic metres of potable water were trucked to shelters on 26 August. The potable water supply was on average 3.9 liters per person per day. In addition to drinking water, 1,226 cubic metres of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the shelters. UNRWA is further undertaking preparations for long-term shelters for families unable to return home.
  • UNRWA’s hygiene and water campaign is ongoing in the UNRWA designated emergency shelters, with 179 IDP committees (including at minimum 2 women, 2 men and 4 youth of which two girls and two boys) established with overall 1,636 members. Hygiene focal points and facilitators have organized 985 awareness sessions among 57,076 IDPs focusing on cleanliness, usage of cleaning materials, best practices in water use, how to keep food from being contaminated and how to treat lice and scabies and avoid other diseases related to hygiene conditions. 1,999 persons have been referred to medical focal points deployed in the shelters. So far, 48,153 IDPs have taken part in cleaning campaigns. Disputes amongst IDPs in some shelters in the North is making it difficult for staff to access shelters and impede the work of staff under this campaign.
  • Of UNRWA’s Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme, 289 staff, representing 80 per cent of the permanent sanitation staff, reported to work. Together with 394 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 334 tonnes of waste from all Gaza camps. The 11 water wells in Jabalia Camp (6), Beach Camp (3), Khan Younis Camp (1) and Rafah (1) supplied a total of 12,275 cubic meters of water. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations.
  • 7 out of 21 health centers remain closed. 83 per cent of the staff reported to work, and 15,118 patients were served on 26 August. 

SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS

Reportedly, there were 102 rockets and 71 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 61 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza. 107 tank shells were fired from the fence into populated areas. Reportedly, 10 houses were bombarded. A ceasefire came into effect at 1900hrs on 26 August 2014.

UNRWA INSTALLATIONS

Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 110 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014. 

FUNDING NEEDS

More information on the revised flash appeal can be found here.

CROSSINGS

  • The Rafah crossing was open for humanitarian cases and international visa holders.
  • The Erez crossing was open for humanitarian cases and international staff.
  • The Kerem Shalom crossing was open. 

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