In 2017, Palestine refugees across the oPt continued to face Israeli occupation, repeated violations of human rights and high levels of violence, with individual, familial and community resilience stretched to the limit. In Gaza, the political and security situation remains volatile as the land, air and sea blockade entered its eleventh year. With employment opportunities stifled by the blockade – the unemployment rate remains among the highest worldwide – almost 1 million Palestine refugees are dependent on emergency food assistance, a tenfold increase on the 100,000 that required such support in 2000. Three and a half years on from the 2014 hostilities, which caused unprecedented destruction and loss of life, thousands of Palestine refugee families remain displaced and repairs to tens of thousands of homes have yet to be complete.
The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains fragile. Palestine refugees continue to experience difficult socioeconomic conditions rooted in occupation-related policies and practices imposed by the Israeli authorities. In addition to continued movement and access restrictions and shelter demolitions under a restrictive and discriminatory planning regime, Palestine refugees in the West Bank experience high levels of food insecurity. The lack of progress on the political track, coupled with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, only add to this burden.
Within a global environment characterized by increasing humanitarian need and competing demands on resources, UNRWA may continue to face challenges in raising funds for emergency interventions in 2018 that could translate into: (i) reduced food assistance and/or Cash-for-Work (CfW) opportunities, leading to increased food insecurity level; (ii) diminished access to psychosocial support that would further stretch Palestine refugee resilience and well-being; and/or (iii) diminished protective support for the most vulnerable, including women, persons with disabilities, and survivors of home demolitions and evictions. Emergency assistance provided by UNRWA constitutes the minimum support necessary to meet the critical needs of Palestine refugees. A reduction in such support could have a destabilising effect on the oPt. The humanitarian problems faced by Palestine refugees today must be addressed as a matter of shared international responsibility, pending a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Palestine refugee question, in accordance with international law and relevant General Assembly resolution.
The 2018 UNRWA Emergency Appeal in the occupied Palestinian territory has four strategic priorities. These priorities focus on preventing further deteriorations in food security; promoting, protecting and upholding the rights of refugees, including accessing services; and ensuring that UNRWA has sufficient capacity to effectively implement its emergency programmes. The Agency is requesting US$ 399 million in 2018 to cover the cost of emergency interventions in critical sectors such as food and cash assistance, livelihoods, protection, community mental health, education, shelter, and water and sanitation.
Priorities for UNRWA emergency support to Palestine refugees affected by the recurrent hostilities in Gaza and by the ongoing blockade and occupation include emergency in-kind food assistance to approximately 924,000 Palestine refugees living beneath the poverty line, 54,121 emergency cash-for-work opportunities and counselling for over 20,000 refugee children. Summer Fun Weeks for 120,000 children will mitigate the impact of both conflict and poverty on students’ physical and mental health and on their learning and development.
In the West Bank, UNRWA will provide emergency food assistance through food vouchers to food insecure households inside and outside camps.. Mobile health clinics and mobile community mental health teams will serve communities facing significant obstacles to accessing health services, specifically in areas such as Area C and the Seam Zone.
*(The unprecedented funding shortfall faced by UNRWA since the beginning of 2018 has forced the Agency to implement changes to some of its emergency interventions to ensure that vital humanitarian assistance is maintained for the most vulnerable refugees. In Gaza, UNRWA is prioritizing the continued delivery of food assistance to nearly one million refugees. This requires scaling back of other interventions such as the community mental health and job creation programmes and protection.
In the West Bank, under the Emergency Appeal, UNRWA is currently providing emergency food assistance in the form of food vouchers; and in-kind food assistance for the Bedouin communities through a cooperative arrangement with the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA also continues to assist and advocates for Palestine refugee communities at risk of displacement due to demolitions or evictions. Other activities such as cash-for-work; community mental health; and mobile health clinics, initially planned as part of the emergency interventions, have been altered or discontinued due to lack of funding.
Now in its seventh year, the conflict in Syria continues to be characterized by widespread violence resulting in death and destruction; internal displacement; and reports of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure. Civilians who have remained inside Syria continue to face significant humanitarian and protection needs. Of the estimated 438,000 Palestine refugees remaining inside Syria, over 95 per cent (418,000) are in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance. Almost 254,000 are internally displaced, and, as of June 2018, an estimated 34,200 are trapped in hard-to-reach locations. -
Over 120,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) have fled the country, including around 32,500 to Lebanon and 17,000 to Jordan. Many PRS in Lebanon and Jordan face a precarious and marginalized existence due to their uncertain legal status and limited social protection mechanisms, making them heavily reliant on UNRWA for their basic needs.
Within this complex and challenging operating environment, UNRWA will continue to adapt its interventions to ensure that it meets the essential needs of Palestine refugees affected by the Syria crisis. The Agency will draw on its existing structures, supply chains and capacities to ensure an effective and agile response to ongoing and evolving needs. As new areas inside Syria may become accessible during the year, spontaneous returns of Palestine refugees displaced within Syria are expected to increase, as observed in Sbeineh or Khan Eshieh camps in 2017. In 2018, UNRWA will sustain efforts to resume core services in areas of spontaneous return, provided that safe access is granted. More specifically, UNRWA will monitor the access situation in Yarmouk and Rif Damascus, Ein el Tal camp in Aleppo, and Dera’a camp and villages.
More than ever, UNRWA provides a critical lifeline to Palestine refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In 2018, UNRWA requires US$ 409 million to support critical humanitarian assistance such as cash, food, household items, winter items, protection, emergency education and emergency health care in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. US$ 329 million is needed to cover minimum humanitarian needs in Syria, US$ 61 million for Lebanon, US$ 15 million for Jordan and US$ 3.5 million to support regional management and the emergency response outside these three fields.
 OCHA classification, 20 June 2018