31 august 2014 | issue 53/54
Update as of 1600hrs
Almost one quarter of UNRWA school buildings (156) continue to serve as collective centers. 58,071 IDPs – Palestine refugees and non-refugees – continue to take shelter in 36 UNRWA schools.
In coordination with the Ministry of Education, the 2014/15 school year will start on 14 September. UNRWA expects some 241,000 students in 252 schools, which will be run on double-shift basis, with one school of students and teachers in the morning and another school in the afternoon. With 36 school buildings still serving as shelters, class formation and overall planning for the new school years is a major challenge. Quality education and psychosocial support to students in UNRWA schools will be a major challenge in the overcrowded classrooms, with both teachers and students being affected by the experiences of the war.
- In most areas, the remaining IDP caseload was consolidated into a reduced number of UNRWA schools. UNRWA is committed to not force out displaced from the shelters and to continue providing humanitarian assistance to those sheltered in the schools, albeit recognizing that the assistance UNRWA provides can be a pull factor given the overall appalling situation in Gaza. The Agency continues new registrations for displaced whose homes are uninhabitable, which includes for example families who have to leave host families, government shelters or temporary refuges such as hospitals. Shelter consolidation allows for more targeted support and for UNRWA to prepare schools for the new school year, albeit shelter consolidation into 16 pre-identified collective centers cannot move forward as planned due to the size of the displaced population, particularly in the North and Gaza. UNRWA is in the process of finalizing a comprehensive assistance plan for those IDPs who will remain in the shelters for an extended period of time.
- UNRWA is urgently looking for donors who can provide cash assistance to cover rental expenses to enable those who lost everything to rent accommodation or to support host families who provide shelter to the displaced. The scale of damage is unprecedented. Whilst shelter assessment is far from completed, an estimated 20,000 housing units are uninhabitable, either destroyed or severely damaged. There are insufficient housing units available in Gaza, with estimates varying between 1,000 and 2,000 units. Cash support is needed to encourage displaced to rent available flats and to provide an incentive for host families to continue sheltering the displaced, as most families cannot afford feeding and sheltering relatives and friends over an extended period of time. The provision of temporary housing solutions, such as prefabricated houses, is under discussion, but there are several downsides to this solution, including scarcity of land in Gaza and the development of more permanent urban ghettos. The question remains how Gaza reconstruction is to start under the current access regime imposed by the Government of Israel and the unavailability of construction material on the local market.
- While the cease-fire is holding, the emergency declaration still remains in place and the UNRWA Operations Rooms in Gaza City and in the five governorates remain staffed. Recruitment of dedicated staff to manage the UNRWA collective centers intended for an extended stay of displaced is underway. The recruitment of dedicated staff will allow UNRWA personnel currently managing the shelters and the related response to return to their respective positions within the Agency, and will allow for the necessary preparatory work in light of the start of the new school year. At the peak of the emergency, some 900 education staff worked in the shelters.
- As of today, 31 August UNRWA staff returned to the UNRWA Gaza Field Office and will gradually return to a normal work routine. The Agency will provide support to help staff to build positive ways of coping with their experiences, including information sessions, workshops and one-to-one support sessions if required.
- A strong mobilization of resources to continue providing assistance to civilians in need is absolutely necessary but not a solution for Gaza. Lifting the blockade and the collective punishment of the population is imperative to move forward. Without a political solution, it is a question of weeks, months or maybe years until the next cycle of violence erupts, which will again present a major setback to all humanitarian and development assistance provided in the meantime. UNRWA is hoping the ceasefire to hold but is undertaking planning should there be a resumption of violence.
- The cumulative death toll among Palestinians stands at 2,116, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 356 persons who could not yet be identified or their status established. Of the initially verified cases, 1,484 are believed to be civilians, including 495 children and 255 women, and 276 members of armed groups. Approximately 25 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have reportedly been killed in Gaza by armed groups since 21 August. They are not included in the above death toll.
Past 24 hours: The situation in Gaza remains calm. On Saturday, Islamic Jihad and Hamas staged rallies in Gaza City and Deir el Balah City.
The UNRWA Beach Camp Elementary Boys School C continues to provide a temporary home to some 900 displaced. Most of them come from Beit Hanoun and Gaza City, including from Shuja’iyya, areas which were subject to heavy shelling during the course of the 50 day war.
Salwa Hamada and her family is one of the many who took refuge in mid-July 2014 after their home was severely damaged when a neighboring house was hit. The 51 year old mother said that all she wants is to rebuild her home and to bring up her children in peace and security. Ms. Hamada’s 11 year old son, Izziddin Hamada, said: “I want a long ceasefire to return to school. I want the blockade to end so that I can travel abroad. I want to study medicine in the future so that I can treat my sick mother.”
Amal Al Omari is 13 years old and would be studying in the 7th grade in one of UNRWA’s schools. Instead, she continues living in UNRWA’s Beach Camp Elementary Boys School C following the complete destruction of her family home in Gaza City where she used to live with her mother and four siblings. She said: “My father passed away last year. He had cancer. Before he passed away, he bought us a lovely house. I want to have our house rebuilt. I want peace. I want the borders to open so that my mother can travel abroad to undergo her eye surgery and I can continue education. After finishing high school, I would like to study Journalism.”
- On Friday 30 and Saturday 31 August, UNMAS cleared 37 UNRWA installations free of unexploded ordnance.
- UNRWA started cleaning and repair works in UNMAS cleared schools to prepare for the new school year. Textbooks for the new school year are being received.
- UNRWA continues explosive remnants of war training for staff. 65 staff from the Agency’s Relief and Social Services and Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programmes were trained on 30 August in Gaza City. The training is a requirement for staff whom will undertake field assessments.
- On Friday 30 and Saturday 31 August, UNRWA delivered a total of 6 truckloads of non food items as well as 38 truckloads of food to shelters in cooperation with WFP.
- UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distributions to the shelters on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday 30 August, 501 cubic metres of potable water were trucked, which is equivalent to some 9 litres of drinking water per person per day. In addition to drinking water, 542 cubic metres of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the shelters.
- Since the announcement of the ceasefire on 26 August, the IDP situation has been very fluid. The Water & Hygiene Campaign had to restart with committee formation in the consolidated shelters. Since the ceasefire started, 37 IDP committees (including at minimum 2 women, 2 men and 4 youth of which two girls and two boys) have been established with overall 349 members. Over the course of the 50 day war, hygiene focal points and facilitators have organized 1,081 awareness sessions for 61,494 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. Overall, 2,425 persons have been referred to medical focal points. 56,604 IDPs have taken part in cleaning campaigns.
- Regular health services, regular food distribution and the exceptional food distribution did not occur on Friday 29 August.
- On Saturday 30 August, UNRWA’s regular food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. Food rations were provided to 3,848 families through UNRWA distribution centers. Throughout the emergency, UNRWA has distributed food to the current caseload of over 830,000 people. Distribution centers are open six days a week, with the exception of Friday when food commodities for the regular and the exceptional food distribution are moved to the food distribution centers for the following week.
- 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 116,002 of the eligible 143,000 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice, representing 81 per cent of the total eligible families. On Saturday 30 August, 1,068 rations were distributed through UNRWA’s food distribution centres. It is planned the exceptional food distribution will continue until Monday, 1 September, including for the resolution of any pending appeals.
- 14 out of 21 health centers were open on Saturday 30 August 2014. All of UNRWA’s 874 health personnel reported to work, and 19,013 patients were served.
- Of UNRWA’s Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme, 116 sanitation staff reported to work on Friday, 29 August. Together with 107 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 254 tonnes of waste from all of Gaza’s 8 camps. On Saturday, 30 August, 302 permanent staff reported to work plus 393 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme, removing some 366 tonnes of waste from the camps.
- The 11 water wells in Jabalia Camp (6), Beach Camp (3), Khan Younis Camp (1) and Rafah (1) supplied a total of 10,761 cubic meters of water on Friday 29 August, and 11,861 liters on Saturday 30 August. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations and shelters.
Summary of Major Incidents
The ceasefire holds.
Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 111 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014.
The revised flash appeal is available here.
The Rafah crossing was open for humanitarian cases and international visa holders on Friday and Saturday.
The Erez crossing was open for humanitarian cases and international staff on Friday.
The Kerem Shalom crossing was closed on Friday and Saturday.