Gaza Situation Report 103
21 - 28 July 2015 | Issue 103
On 26 July, UNRWA held an extraordinary session of its Advisory Commission (AdCom) to discuss the Agency’s most devastating financial crisis since its establishment. The extraordinary Advisory Commission session discussed a special report to be sent by the Commissioner-General to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and on to all 193 members of the United Nations. The report sets out the implications of the Agency’s US$ 101 million deficit for 2015, the measures the Agency has taken to reduce costs, and the strenuous efforts to seek the necessary funds. It also outlines urgent steps that could be taken to put UNRWA on a firm financial footing going forward. As things currently stand, UNRWA has enough money to maintain its services essential to protect public health, which includes immunizations for children, primary health care, relief and sanitation and some emergency programmes through to the end of 2015, but the funding is insufficient to guarantee the stable provision of its education services from September onwards. “Our schools also provide a measure of stability in a very unstable region. Possible delays in opening the school year would also have grave implications for host governments,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl during the meeting. UNRWA calls on all donors and partners to step forward and help to preserve the historic educational investment in the human development of Palestine refugees, recognized as one the most successful processes of its kind in the Middle East.
- The Agency remains committed to delivering Relief and social services as the third quarter of food distributions is ongoing across the Gaza strip. 97,337 beneficiaries (20,512 families) received in-kind rations of food from 1 - 14 July, through the Social Safety Net (SSN) programme. An additional 778,862 Palestine refugees (141,083 families) further received food assistance from 22 July - 22 September through the Emergency Appeal (EA). For this third quarter of 2015 food distribution, UNRWA has procured, delivered or is currently distributing a total of 17,559 tons of flour, 1,995 tons of rice, 1,995 tons of sugar, 728 tons of milk, 1.71 million litres of oil and 1.29 million tons of meat cans. The total costs of this third quarter food distribution amounts to approximately US$ 14.42 million. Food parcels are distributed in 12 distribution centres across the Gaza Strip by 313 UNRWA logistics department personnel members, including 226 persons who were hired through the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP) for this purpose. Distributions are also supported by UNRWA Warehouse activities run by 155 logistics department personnel, including another 80 persons hired through the JCP.
- The UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP) in partnership with the UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) organized a two-day cleaning campaign in Jabalia camp in northern Gaza and in Beach camp in Gaza city. This was organized as a preventive measure to keep streets and public places within refugee camps clean before and during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan. In Jabalia, 100 JCP labourers removed an estimated 200 tons of solid waste and in Beach camp 15 JCP workers removed an estimate of 35 tons of solid waste. Before and during Eid holidays, garbage typically increases in Gaza as many people are shopping and outside enjoying public spaces. The UNRWA cleaning campaign helped to create a pleasant and festive atmosphere for the community.
- To ensure continuous capacity building, skills training and professionalism of UNRWA staff members, the UNRWA Collective Centre Management Unit (CCMU) organized a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Emergencies Training of Trainers (TOT) for 20 UNRWA colleagues of the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP). The TOT was held on 27 and 28 July at the UNRWA Gaza Field Office. It included presenters and speakers from the CCMU, other UNRWA programmes and the international aid organization Handicap International. The training covered a variety of important cross cutting topics related to WASH such as protection, gender, accountability, health, logistics and visibility. The goal was to train relevant ICIP engineers as trainers to manage the WASH component of emergency responses in the future and to design the WASH response based on humanitarian standards and humanitarian principles. Further to this two-day workshop, on 29 July the CCMU will hold an similar WASH cross cutting training for other UNRWA colleagues who have been involved in the management of UNRWA Collective Centres over the past nine months.
- To provide children in Gaza with some fun and an opportunity to enjoy a semblance of normal life, on 25 July UNRWA launched Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) 2015. SFWs activities such as football, basketball, trampoline, inflatable toys, popular games, handicrafts, free drawing and theatre shows will run until 13 August in 116 SFWs locations across Gaza, including installations that facilitate the participation of children with special needs. A total of 175,000 male and female students have registered with UNRWA and are currently benefitting from the activities. In addition, approximately 2,500 Palestine refugees have received short-term employment opportunities at the SFWs as animators, location managers or cleaners through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme (JCP). SFWs are financed by especially earmarked donor funds which is money that cannot therefore be used for core services such as education.
On 23 July, in line with its long-term strategy to build the capacities of UNRWA Medical Officers (MOs), the Agency launched the first Postgraduate Diploma in Family Medicine in Gaza in cooperation with the Rila Institute of Health Sciences, the University of Westminster’s Academic Development Centre, and Al-Azhar University. The new programme, generously funded by the Saudi-based Al Walid Bin Talal Foudation (Alwaleed Philanthropies), offers 15 UNRWA MOs the opportunity to improve their skills and gain experience in the management of clinical and service aspects of family medicine through tailored e-learning modules as well as through extensive workshops and lectures. After the satisfactory completion of the training, the MOs will acquire a Family Medicine Diploma, validated by the University of Westminster. Primary health care is pivotal for the improvement of the health status of Palestine refugees and the one-year training course will have a strong impact on the capacity of UNRWA Health Centres across the Gaza Strip. As with SFWs, this is funded by especially earmarked donor funds which is money that cannot therefore be used for core services such as education.
UNRWA continues with its’ “50 voices for 50 days of conflict: Gaza in its own words” campaign for #GazaOneYearLater, to maintain a focus on the human element of conflict and raise further awareness of the ongoing plight of Palestine refugees in Gaza. “When we lost our house, it was like we lost our dreams, our existence and our value as human beings. It will take years to get rid of the bitterness inside me of what happened to my family and my children. I feel that I am not the same person anymore,” stated Sami Mahmoud Sa’ad when he was still living in an UNRWA Collective Centre in Gaza city several months after the 2014 conflict had ended. His portrait is one of 50 voices from Gaza that have featured on the UNRWA website, staff portal and across the Agency’s social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The campaign highlights that whilst the conflict in Gaza might have ended on 26 August 2014, the crisis is ongoing. A new quote is being added each day from 8 July through to the anniversary of the ceasefire next month.
- Shelter update
- During the reporting week, UNRWA was not able to distribute further funds for shelter assistance because of a lack of funds. Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency distributed over US$ 113.32 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or demolished during the 2014 summer conflict. To date, UNRWA has completed the payments to over 60,000 Palestine refugee families – almost half of the caseload – for minor repair works and to 290 families to repair their severely damaged shelters. 11,636 families are awaiting further assistance to repair or reconstruct their shelters. 12,528 families have received a rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014 and 71,971 families have received payments for repair works. Furthermore, the Agency has distributed US$ 402,024 for assistance for the reconstruction of totally destroyed homes.
- Due to lack of funding, to date 51,039 families still have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 7,698 have not received the second tranche to continue repair works. UNRWA has processed these cases and they have received approval through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; as soon as funding is secured, the Agency can distribute the urgently needed financial support. In addition, 310 families have not received their rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014 and 220 families have not received the first and second quarter of 2015 payments. 1,297 families have not received their US$ 500 reintegration grant to replace lost household goods.
To date, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 139,817 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during last summer’s conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. 5,000 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 122,000 minor, damages.
In his monthly briefing to the UN Security Council, Mr Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressed utmost concern for UNRWA’s current unmatched financial crisis which will have “grave implications for Palestine refugee children in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and for the stability and security of a region already in turmoil” if the financial gap of US$ 101 million is not closed soon. He called on donors to support UNRWA at this critical time. He also mentioned the fragile dynamics within Gaza and the risks these present. “Gaza’s painstaking emergence from last summer’s conflict is undermining belief among the population that genuine progress can be achieved,” he stated, adding that activities of Salafi jihadists and other extremist groups are a cause for concern not only in Gaza, but also in neighbouring Sinai in Egypt. Mr Mladenov also took the opportunity to urge the international donor community to fulfill its pledges made at the Cairo Conference in October 2014 for the reconstruction of Gaza, particularly in light of the new mechanism agreed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to allow construction material for the reconstruction of fully destroyed homes into Gaza.
The UNRWA financial deficit and the possibility that the opening of schools in all five fields could be delayed generated further public concern in Gaza during the reporting week; hundreds of protestors gathered on 26 July in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City in protest of an unverified potential cut to UNRWA services due to the Agency’s financial crisis; protestors also held sit-ins in front of various UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip regarding the same serious concerns.
According to media reports the Gaza Mental Health Programme, a Palestinian non-governmental organization, has released a new study, stating that in Gaza 51 per cent of the children and 31 per cent of adults are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the 2014 conflict. According to Save the Children, about 75 per cent of children from severely hit areas continue to experience unusual bedwetting regularly and more than 70 per cent are permanently worried about another conflict. Children in Gaza “have lived through events that would give even the most hardened adult nightmares. The continued blockade and threat of renewed conflict makes it very difficult for children to recover from the trauma they have experienced,” said David Hassell, Co-Country Director of Save the Children in the occupied Palestinian territory, in a recent statement.
During the reporting week, other protests and rallies were held, mainly to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails or to protest against the recent wave of arrests by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
“From failure to success”
UNRWA vocational training courses for over-aged students
At the beginning of July, 16 female over-aged students (those who have previously failed two or more years in school) started two and a half month apprenticeships in private businesses across the Gaza Strip; prior to the apprenticeships the girls had successfully completed a six month vocational training in food processing at the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC).
“After the apprenticeship my dream is to enter the labour market; I also want to open my own small workshop and offer all the products I have learned to produce here; it is important for me to support my family economically,” said 18-year old Naima Abu Abed from Khan Younis when UNRWA visited her during her training at the GTC. Naima had some difficulties in school and was encouraged by her School Principal and teachers to consider the possibility of vocational training courses with UNRWA. “I am very happy to have joined this training; it has given me inspiration and changed my life from failure to success.”
The same is true for her 19-year old colleague, Fatima Salama from Beach camp in Gaza city. Whilst she confesses that she was not a very strong student, Fatima is now very hopeful for her future: “My dream is to become successful in the future and open my own workshop to be able to support my family.”
After completing the training at the GTC, Naima and Fatima have started their apprenticeships in a private business in the beginning of July.
“It wasn’t easy for me to go out and communicate with people; I felt very shy all the time. Now I developed the courage to go out and come to this centre every day to practice what I have learned in the training,” said Naima who is doing her apprenticeship in the Al Nour Society in Ma’an, east of Khan Younis area. “I have changed a lot; I have learned many new things, I met new friends and gained new skills and I am still encouraged to open my own small business one day,” she added content and more self-confident.
The two UNRWA Vocational Training Centres in Khan Younis and Gaza city started offering courses in 2010 in order to enhance the professional skills and employment opportunities of young Palestine refugees. UNRWA currently offers places for a total of 1,745 trainees through its two vocational training centres in Gaza city and in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Approximately 80 per cent of all participants are from the Strips’ most vulnerable groups, including women and youth. Courses are offered in plumbing, painting, plastering, nursing and counselling, but also in photography or food processing technology. The vocational trainees usually enjoy 6 months of training in the centre and are then in a second phase of opportunity via an apprenticeship to a private business outside UNRWA, in order to acquaint themselves with life skills and understand how the market works.
Summary of Major Incidents
Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the security fence or towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 21 July, one person was reportedly injured when Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats; two other persons were arrested.
On 22 July, four Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into Beit Lahia area, northern Gaza, and conducted a levelling operation as well as repair works to the security fence. On 27 July, one Israeli tank and five bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into Gaza, east of Gaza city, laying suppressive fire and conducting a clearing operation.
UNRWA is facing its most serious financial crisis ever: currently, UNRWA has a funding shortfall for core activities - such as schools for half a million children - of US$ 101 million. Without further contributions, the Agency would only be able to continue to fund its core activities into September 2015. With unprecedented needs faced by the Palestine refugees, contributions are falling short of the need for services. In response, the Agency is currently exploring options for additional funding, but is also implementing a series of austerity measures aimed at decreasing costs where possible while preserving essential services to refugees.
US$ 220 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 500 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.
- The Rafah Crossing remained closed from 21 to 28 July.
- The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 21 to 23 July and from 26 to 27 July. On 24 July, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 25 July. As of 23 July, Israeli Arab ID holders or Jerusalem ID holders are not allowed to cross Erez into Gaza anymore following a re-assessment of the security situation by Israel.
Kerem Shalom was open from 21 to 23 July and 26 and 27 July. It was closed on 24 and 25 July.
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