25 November 2012 at 16:00
The fragile calm in Gaza seems to hold, despite the killing of a young Palestinian man near the border fence in Khan Younis on Friday, which has raised fears of another escalation. Young people celebrating the ceasefire have reportedly been approaching the border to pray and to attach flags to the fence. Nineteen were injured and one killed when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired at them.
Read more: Emergency in Gaza
The people of Gaza used the official holiday on Friday to mourn their beloved ones, to rest, and to somehow find a way back into daily life. The first heavy winter storms, accompanied by strong winds, rain, and cold temperatures, brought further hardship to all those living in damaged homes. In addition to the buildings that were totally or partially destroyed, a lot of windows have been blown out during the intensive Israeli Air Force bombardments, and for many there was no time to put up plastic sheets to protect their families from wind and rain. Strong thunder has scared the population, mainly children, as many thought the airstrikes had started again.
Shops and offices were open as of Saturday and all services have resumed.
More than two-thirds of the commercial tunnels in Rafah have been partially or totally destroyed. The Kerem Shalom crossing is back to the opening times implemented before the escalation, with closures on Fridays and Saturdays.
Over 200 people from various unions and organisations of different Arab countries, including doctors, entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing over 23 and 24 November to express their solidarity with the people of Gaza. A Turkish delegation consisting of 16 people entered through the Rafah crossing on Saturday morning with over 30 trucks carrying over 100 tonnes of food aid and medicine.
Gaza: facts and figures
- 1.2 million refugees
- 8 refugee camps
- 12,000 staff
- 245 schools for 225,000 students
- 21 health centres
- 12 food distribution centres for more than 800,000 refugees
- Living under a tightened land and sea blockade since 2007
- Shattered local economy
Urgent funding request (USD)
- Food assistance: 6 million
- Cash assistance: 2 million
- Non-food items: 1 million
- Urgent repair of installations and refugee shelters: 1.5 million
- Medical supplies: 400,000
- Job creation programme support to the World Health Organization: 210,000
- Fuel (municipalities, hospitals): 1.5 million
- Waste and rubble removal: 100,000
- Total: 12.71 million
- Funding committed: 2.86 million
- Remaining unfunded need: 9.85 million
The very fragile improved security situation in Gaza has continued without any major escalation. No retaliation to the IDF firing has been reported. Hamas has deployed police forces in border areas to prevent young people from approaching the fence.
Of UNRWA’s 245 schools in the Gaza Strip, 243 opened on Saturday, allowing approximately 223,000 Palestine refugee children to resume a normal schedule. Children were excited to return to school after having missed school and staying indoors at home for more than a week.
Maintenance crews, together with the local communities, worked into the evening hours on Friday to prepare schools to receive students. Unsafe areas, too significant for quick cleanup, were cordoned off and will remain that way until they can be repaired. Minor repairs were also completed, but many schools remain in need of replacements to windows that were blown out in collateral damage. While the majority of general cleanup was completed before students arrived yesterday, some cleaning continued, including the disposal of glass from destroyed windows. Sandy areas in some schools are proving particularly difficult and require further attention.
Today, around 1,000 students attending an UNRWA school in the Tel el Hawa area of Gaza were moved to an adjacent school, which they will attend during the second shift until repairs to their school building are finished.
After a long cleanup, the Shejayia Co-ed Elementary Schools A and B opened today, welcoming more than 2,000 students. To this end, the classroom composition for students was reorganised in order to integrate students whose classrooms were destroyed into other less damaged classrooms, which themselves are missing doors and windows.
Students attending the Bureij Co-ed Elementary Schools A and D were reorganised in the library, the teachers’ room, and a storage room, as well as merged into other classes due to the severe damage to four classrooms in that school building.
Although these temporary solutions allow children to attend school, it has increased the number of students in each classroom above UNRWA standards.
All UNRWA schools have been thoroughly checked for shrapnel, stray bullets from celebratory gunfire, and any explosive remnants. UN Mine Action has conducted an assessment at four UNRWA schools to ensure some of the most damaged are free of explosive remnants of war that may have landed within school compounds during attacks on nearby targets.
Yesterday the average school attendance rate of operational schools was 87 per cent; that number rose to 95.5 per cent today as students settled into normal life again. A number of children attending UNRWA schools today had visible injuries resulting from the hostilities, and some are known to be at home for care or in the hospital. School feeding resumed within operational schools.
A total of 180 counsellors reported to their schools yesterday and today. Counsellors organised orientation classes for the teachers and gave them comprehensive counselling sessions to ensure that they are able to deal with students’ reactions and are not overwhelmed by their own experiences of the hostilities.
Standard lessons were set aside as teachers take their time to welcome students back to school and provide opportunities for children to cope with the experience of the hostilities. Expressive sessions were organised for students, including recreational activities, drawing sessions, and sports. Such activities further help students to smoothly restore their normal functioning. Students not responding to such activities are identified for further follow-up.
The counsellors are screening the students to identify the ones exposed to serious events. Next week, counsellors will enrol those students and their families in individual counselling. Furthermore, special attention is also being given to those students who did not attend school and counsellors will continue to follow up in the coming days.
All 21 health centres resumed operations yesterday; they were busy and crowded as a spike in patient visits was witnessed after the ceasefire announcement. Staff in the centres stayed late to accommodate the large patient caseload.
General health services, especially antenatal care and children’s immunisation, are very much in demand following days of limited movement by the population. Many mothers had been unable to leave home during the hostilities, and thus child immunisations were delayed by a week; they are are now visiting the health centres.
Five teams of engineers (15 engineers in total) assessed 58 UNRWA installations to determine the degree of damage caused during recent hostilities. Major damage was identified at 18 schools, two health centres, one distribution centre, and two offices; minor damage has been identified at 28 schools, two health centres, and five offices.
Repair works are underway for installations with minor damages. This includes the temporary use of plastic sheeting to cover damaged windows and the repair of doors broken due to the force of blasts.
Yesterday alone, emergency teams visited 130 affected refugee families to determine required assistance and to provide interim relief following the hostilities. As a result, UNRWA distributed plastic sheets and tarpaulin to approximately 70 families.
UNRWA is working in collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the humanitarian cluster system to assess needs that have arisen from the violence, with UNRWA focusing on the refugee situation. In particular, UNRWA is working with partners to assess the impact of the violence on food security, availability of shelter and non-food items, and mental health and psychosocial needs.
- Rafah crossing is open per normal schedule. On 22 November, 863 people entered Gaza and 386 people exited Gaza. On 23 November, 889 people entered Gaza and 221 people exited Gaza. On 24 November, 225 people entered Gaza and 480 people exited Gaza. Several delegations and trucks carrying medicine and food aid crossed into Gaza on 23 and 24 November.
- Kerem Shalom crossing was open today. On 22 November, 123 truckloads entered through the crossing.
- Erez crossing was open today and on 23 November.
How you can help
To support UNRWA’s emergency operation in Gaza you can donate online at www.unrwa.org/gaza.
To receive further information on how you or your organisation can help, send a message to [email protected].