The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, has declared an Emergency in Gaza City, following extreme weather and severe flooding over the past 48 hours. No casualties or injuries have been reported, however hundreds of residents in the flooded areas around the Sheikh Radwan storm water lagoon have evacuated their homes. One UNRWA school and an UNRWA Collective Centre in Gaza City have been affected by the rising waters.
The Agency has established an Area Emergency Operations room in Gaza City following contingency planning undertaken last week. As the largest UN agency in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA utilizes its procurement and logistical capacity to supply emergency fuel to municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities, partially through the WASH and Health clusters (led by UNICEF and WHO). Today, UNRWA provided 60,000 litres emergency fuel supplies to run back-up generators of pumping stations and portable pumps. UNRWA is also prepared to provide adequate shelter to internally displaced refugees and non refugees should there be a need.
Gaza City is one of five areas in the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave where UNRWA serves some 1.3 million Palestine refugees across all Areas. Of the 18 UNRWA Collective Centres, 5 are in Gaza City and currently provide adequate shelter for some 7,000 people displaced by the recent and devastating conflict.
As a precautionary measure, 63 schools in Gaza City are closed today for the afternoon shift, affecting almost 65,000 students. Forty-three schools in the North Area of the Strip are also now closed. Other UNRWA installations are still being assessed, though no damage has yet been reported.
UNRWA is in close consultation with all of its partners, the Palestinian Government and the local municipality who are monitoring the level of rain across the Strip.
"We are very concerned about such severe storms this early in the season and on the back of unprecedented damage and destruction caused by the recent conflict,” said UNRWA’s Director of Operations Robert Turner in Gaza. “We are particularly concerned for those families still seeking adequate shelter and preparing for the winter months, and for the impact the flooding is already having on children unable to attend school.”
The devastation that extreme weather can cause is not new for Palestinian families in Gaza. In December 2013, the fiercest winter storm the region has seen for many years, Alexa, hit the Strip, and brought torrential rains and widespread flooding that displaced thousands. Such devastation exacerbates the already poor humanitarian situation for refugees and non-refugees in Gaza, which is dealing with the aftermath of a recent conflict, and an acute fuel and energy crisis.
UNRWA continues to closely monitor the situation.