Protection in the Gaza Strip

In Gaza, home to 1.34 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA, repeated hostilities in recent years have had a devastating impact, with unprecedented levels of destruction of physical infrastructure, loss of human life, displacement and dramatic deterioration of the social fabric. The pace and scale of reconstruction remain extremely slow.

Having entered its 11th year in June 2017, the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza, which the United Nations considers illegal under international law as a form of collective punishment, continues to severely restrict the freedom of movement of people and goods, crippling the economy. Public services and utilities, including health, electricity and sanitation, are unable to meet the high demand of Gaza’s growing population. If the current trend continues, the United Nations estimates that the Gaza Strip will become uninhabitable by the year 2020.

Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. According to the World Bank, in 2017 the unemployment rate was 44 per cent, with youth unemployment particularly worrying at 60 per cent. This situation has eroded many households’ capital and coping mechanisms, rendering more than 80 per cent of the population of Gaza dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. The growing young generation in Gaza, despite a high level of education, has been left without meaningful prospects and with an increasing sense of hopelessness for the future.

In Gaza, UNRWA has put in place procedures and standards for identifying and responding to vulnerable Palestine refugees who have experienced violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect. Moreover, through home visits as part of the UNRWA poverty assessment, social workers have the opportunity to record and flag any protection concerns for further follow-up and coordinated response.

To further advance the protection of Palestine refugees, UNRWA programmes adopt an evidence-based approach to incorporating protection principles in service delivery. In practice, this means that services are delivered in a manner that promotes the safety and dignity of Palestine refugees. In addition, the participation of Palestine refugees in UNRWA schools and health centres inform how UNRWA can further improve its services. UNRWA also monitors the negative consequences of hostilities and the blockade on the Gaza Strip, and raises its concerns about possible violations of international law with duty bearers. Furthermore, UNRWA uses public advocacy, including media and strategic communications, to raise awareness and promote action to address protection concerns affecting Palestine refugees.

*Last updated: March 2018