Gaza Situation Report 56

02 September 2014
Gaza Situation Report 56

02 September 2014 | issue 56

  The next update will be issued Thursday 4 September 2014 and from then onwards bi-weekly Monday & Thursday.

UPDATE AS OF 1600 HRS

The number of displaced in UNRWA schools remains higher than the number of displaced sheltered during the peak of the hostilities from 27 December 2008 to 19 January 2009. 31 UNRWA school buildings – every fifth building – continue to serve as collective centres, sheltering 58,217 displaced. 

Highlights

  • 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 centres is underway. A collective centre management team will operate from the Gaza Field Office once the emergency is declared over and Area Operations Room in the governorates are closed.
  • UNMAS completed clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) of all but three UNRWA schools and an UNRWA maintenance office. UXO clearance allows for cleaning, assessment and repair works of the Agency’s installations, particularly schools in light of the start of the new school year on 14 September.
  • In coordination with the Ministry of Education, preparations for the new school year are ongoing. UNRWA is expecting over 241,000 students in 252 schools, the vast majority of which will be run on a double-shift basis as there are insufficient buildings. The UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme, school counselors and teachers are working together – through workshops and in-service training – to prepare particularly for the first two weeks of school which will focus on psychosocial activities as per the Agency’s emergency education plan. Also medical examinations will be conducted, and glasses and hearing-aids will be provided if required under the Agency’s Special Children – Special Needs Initiative. UNRWA will also provide stationary for the first semester and is coordinating in-kind donations to be distributed to students most in need. Besides cleaning and maintenance work, technical preparations of the school buildings include tenders for the school canteen and securing water supply to schools.
  • In view of the upcoming shelter assessments, UNRWA completed training of all essential Relief and Social Services and Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme staff in all five areas of the Gaza Strip. A further 200 Palestinian engineers recruited under the Job Creation Programme, who will also work on shelter assessments, will be trained as of 2 September.
  • UNRWA is expecting the shelter assessment to start next week. Social workers and engineers will assess damage to Palestine refugees’ homes. UNRWA is urgently looking for donors to fund cash support to encourage displaced to rent the few homes available on the market. Vouchers to purchase food and non-food items, if funding available, will provide an incentive for host families to continue sheltering displaced relatives and friends. Most families in Gaza are very poor and cannot afford to shelter displaced over an extended period of time. The question remains how Gaza reconstruction is to start under the current access regime imposed by the Government of Israel, which does not allow construction material on the local market.
  • There is a huge backlog of new UNRWA projects worth 94.5m USD submitted long before the summer hostilities, but priorities will have to be reviewed in light of the unprecedented destruction in Gaza. Only one re-housing project, worth 16.5 million USD, was approved in 2014, the first approval in over a year. The project was submitted to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) on 2 December 2012, but approval was received on 13 May 2014 only. UNRWA, however, has received COGAT clearance to resume the coordination of construction materials through the only functional border crossing for previously approved projects. .
  • All 21 UNRWA Health Centres reopened on 1 September and continue to serve the entire population of the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the 50 day war, UNRWA Health Centres have recorded a total of 650,518 patient visits, including maternal health care visits, child visits, such as for example for immunization, visits by people with non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, and 388,156 visits to seek medical care for acute and common illnesses. For most of the conflict only two thirds of the Agency’s health centres were functional and on average only three quarter of the health staff were able to report to work. The daily average of patient visits, however, was just below the pre-war average.
  • UNRWA is hoping the ceasefire will hold but is finalizing plans should there be a resumption of violence. Without a political solution a new cycle of violence is very likely. The Israeli blockade on Gaza needs to be lifted, and transfers to Gaza’s traditional markets West Bank and Israel need to be allowed. Exports remain virtually banned, with only 183 truckloads leaving the Gaza Strip over the course of the year 2013. Palestinians need access to traditional markets, to fishing areas and land. Freedom of movement should be permitted.
  • The war hit Gaza at a time of a governance vacuum, with a National Consensus Government in place since 2 June 2014 which is still to assume effective power. The challenges remain huge, ranging from payments to former de facto government staff, including the police and teachers, who have not seen full salaries for over one year. Salary payments for employees paid by the Palestinian Authority are due this week. There are growing concerns over potential civil unrest. 

General

Past 24 hours: The overall situation in Gaza remains calm. At 0600hrs, the Israeli navy opened fire towards Palestinian boats northwest of Rafah, forcing them ashore

UNRWA RESPONSE

Coordinating more than thirty truckloads of vital supplies is all in a day’s work for Wafa Nassman and her colleagues. As a Logistics Assistant at UNRWA in Gaza, Wafa has expanded on her usual role and responsibilities to facilitate customs requirements, navigate crossings and help coordinate the distribution of supplies such as food, water, fuel, mattresses and other emergency items into and across Gaza. 

 “I am responsible for coordinating the shipment of food and non-food commodities via trucks into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only functioning border crossing with Israel, and through the West Bank checkpoints, for example for the bread we have to bring in from Hebron” explained Wafa. “The process starts from submitting clearance requests for the items, drafting correspondence for the relevant authorities, following up on approvals and coordinating requests with trucks that cross terminals the next day.”

The logistics teams’ role does not stop there. They are also responsible for the loading and transporting of cargo into warehouses in Gaza and finally, for distribution to governorates.

Since the emergency was declared on 8 July, Wafa has been working every day as part of a three-person team at the Central Operations Room in Gaza City. With her two male colleagues, Wafa helps maintain continuous communication and follow ups to ensure goods are delivered to internally displaced persons in UNRWA shelters as quickly and efficiently as possible.“I took on additional responsibilities due to the emergency. This has included preparing security clearances for the movement of UNRWA vehicles and trucks inside the Gaza Strip at the height of hostilities, as well as all follow up and management of the trucks to ensure each vehicle makes it safely to their destinations and delivers aid items right on time.”

To achieve the scale of response required to deliver vital supplies to the nearly 300,000 displaced in UNRWA shelters, as well as continue to provide the Agency’s regular services to over 1.2 million Palestinian refugees, including regular food aid to some 830,000 beneficiaries, requires more than 33 trucks, 52 drivers, 150 packers and 160 loaders – all of whom work daily on the Gaza emergency response. 

To support the positioning of goods to reach shelters in each governorate, UNRWA has established interim warehousing options to enable to it to expand the capacity of the existing warehouses located in Rafah and Gaza City.

During hostilities all movements are also coordinated in advance with the Israeli authorities in an effort to secure safe passages between points. Security concerns have intermittently limited UNRWA’s ability to deliver – particularly during days when areas such as Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia, Jabalia, Toffah, Rafah and the entire Gaza Strip East of Salah Al Din road were closed due to insecurity.

However, despite the hostilities, the Kerem Shalom crossing was closed only one working day since early July. Due to the urgency of delivering humanitarian assistance, the crossing has been opened all through the Eid holidays and on most Fridays.

Despite some of the challenges, Wafa finds her role very meaningful. “I find dispatching the food commodities to UNRWA shelters, where they are expecting protection and care, is the most important part of my job; I think of every one of them - especially the children, women, and elderly - getting the minimum of what they deserve.  All this motivates me to do keep on and stick to my commitment to the Palestine Refugees,” she said.

Wafa Nassman joined UNRWA in December 2008, only two weeks before the 2008/09 hostilities started in Gaza, with UNRWA sheltering over 50,000 displaced. She worked with the Emergency Response Team in a similar role as her job today. Wafa gained experience in coordination and logistics then, and again in the conflict of 2012. As with all of UNRWA’s staff, Wafa is personally affected by the war and hopes that the crisis will soon end. “I was affected exactly like all Palestinians in Gaza. My family and I faced the same fear and the same suffering. We all know, whenever a person feels unsafe, she or he runs to their home as we believe it should be the safest place, but for me and everyone in Gaza there was no safe place,” she reflected.

UNRWA has lost eleven personnel since 8 July. Many UNRWA staff risked their lives by reporting to work every day during hostilities, and the logistics team is no different. “Every day I went to the office, although I was concerned about my life. Giving from my side was to leave my family, and I made my way to the office with other colleagues to continue the efforts we all started together to avoid any delay in delivering humanitarian aid. I received all the support from my family which made me keep going on in this role and they were very worried about me … every night I still come home I thank God that I still have a house and my family are safe and look forward to another day of giving.”


  • 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 centres is underway. A collective centre management team will operate from the Gaza Field Office once the emergency is declared over and Area Operations Room in the governorates are closed.
  • UNMAS completed clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) of all but three UNRWA schools and an UNRWA maintenance office. UXO clearance allows for cleaning, assessment and repair works of the Agency’s installations, particularly schools in light of the start of the new school year on 14 September.
  • In coordination with the Ministry of Education, preparations for the new school year are ongoing. UNRWA is expecting over 241,000 students in 252 schools, the vast majority of which will be run on a double-shift basis as there are insufficient buildings. The UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme, school counselors and teachers are working together – through workshops and in-service training – to prepare particularly for the first two weeks of school which will focus on psychosocial activities as per the Agency’s emergency education plan. Also medical examinations will be conducted, and glasses and hearing-aids will be provided if required under the Agency’s Special Children – Special Needs Initiative. UNRWA will also provide stationary for the first semester and is coordinating in-kind donations to be distributed to students most in need. Besides cleaning and maintenance work, technical preparations of the school buildings include tenders for the school canteen and securing water supply to schools.
  • In view of the upcoming shelter assessments, UNRWA completed training of all essential Relief and Social Services and Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme staff in all five areas of the Gaza Strip. A further 200 Palestinian engineers recruited under the Job Creation Programme, who will also work on shelter assessments, will be trained as of 2 September.
  • UNRWA is expecting the shelter assessment to start next week. Social workers and engineers will assess damage to Palestine refugees’ homes. UNRWA is urgently looking for donors to fund cash support to encourage displaced to rent the few homes available on the market. Vouchers to purchase food and non-food items, if funding available, will provide an incentive for host families to continue sheltering displaced relatives and friends. Most families in Gaza are very poor and cannot afford to shelter displaced over an extended period of time. The question remains how Gaza reconstruction is to start under the current access regime imposed by the Government of Israel, which does not allow construction material on the local market.
  • There is a huge backlog of new UNRWA projects worth 94.5m USD submitted long before the summer hostilities, but priorities will have to be reviewed in light of the unprecedented destruction in Gaza. Only one re-housing project, worth 16.5 million USD, was approved in 2014, the first approval in over a year. The project was submitted to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) on 2 December 2012, but approval was received on 13 May 2014 only. UNRWA, however, has received COGAT clearance to resume the coordination of construction materials through the only functional border crossing for previously approved projects. .
  • All 21 UNRWA Health Centres reopened on 1 September and continue to serve the entire population of the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the 50 day war, UNRWA Health Centres have recorded a total of 650,518 patient visits, including maternal health care visits, child visits, such as for example for immunization, visits by people with non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, and 388,156 visits to seek medical care for acute and common illnesses. For most of the conflict only two thirds of the Agency’s health centres were functional and on average only three quarter of the health staff were able to report to work. The daily average of patient visits, however, was just below the pre-war average.
  • UNRWA is hoping the ceasefire will hold but is finalizing plans should there be a resumption of violence. Without a political solution a new cycle of violence is very likely. The Israeli blockade on Gaza needs to be lifted, and transfers to Gaza’s traditional markets West Bank and Israel need to be allowed. Exports remain virtually banned, with only 183 truckloads leaving the Gaza Strip over the course of the year 2013. Palestinians need access to traditional markets, to fishing areas and land. Freedom of movement should be permitted.
  • The war hit Gaza at a time of a governance vacuum, with a National Consensus Government in place since 2 June 2014 which is still to assume effective power. The challenges remain huge, ranging from payments to former de facto government staff, including the police and teachers, who have not seen full salaries for over one year. Salary payments for employees paid by the Palestinian Authority are due this week. There are growing concerns over potential civil unrest. 

SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS 

The ceasefire holds.

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

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.

© UNRWA
30 US$ FEEDS A FAMILY FOR A WEEK