28 – 4 August 2015 | issue 104
Operational environment: During the reporting week, protests and sit-ins in front of UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip have continued, particularly related to the financial crisis the Agency is facing and the potential delay of the beginning of the 2015/2016 school year. The financial crisis creates fears and worry amongst Palestine refugees in Gaza, who largely depend on the Agency’s assistance due to high unemployment and poverty rates caused by the Israeli blockade imposed since June 2007 that maintains a total regulatory control over the life of Gazans, including heavy restrictions on movement of people and goods, and has crushed Gaza’s once trade-oriented economy and created widespread de-development and isolation.
One incident of intercommunal violence was reported this week; on 30 July a dispute between two families resulted in three injuries due to an exchange of fire.
During the reporting week, demonstrations were held in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails or in solidarity with journalists killed during the 2014 summer hostilities, or to protest the death of a Palestinian toddler in an arson attack on a home near Nablus in the West Bank on 31 July; the incident had been widely condemned by international leaders and officials, including statements from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov.
In a big wide tent on a carnation farm in Rafah, southern Gaza, around 15 women are sitting at a large table piled with purple, dark red or yellow-white flowers; quietly and concentrate they bundle them into decorative bouquets, wrapped into shiny see-through plastic paper. The women, hired through the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP), work on the farm every day from 6.30am to 12.30pm; they start with picking the flowers from the large flower beds in the early morning hours, and later, when it becomes too hot under the blazing sun, they retreat into the slightly cooler tent to pack the carnation and prepare it for the local Gaza market.
“The chance to work here is life-saving for me. I am truly happy to be able to work on this farm together with other women,” commented 34-year old Ghada Na’ana’, a mother of eight children, on her new short-term employment. “My husband left me three years ago for another woman; I am the only one who supports my children. We survive because of the food assistance we receive from UNRWA,” she added.
“This is the first time for me that I can say I leave my house to go to work. I am very pleased to meet with other people, and I made many friends. It is also beautiful to work and be surrounded by flowers,” said 30-year-old Zaher Al Mugheir. “This job allows me to do some maintenance work at my home, and I am able to buy new clothes for my children for the Eid holidays,” she added proudly.
The UNRWA JCP support provided to the agricultural sector aims at improving the quality and output of production by increasing manpower to assist with planting, maintenance and harvesting crops while reducing labour costs which presumably translates into a reduction of market costs for the consumer and ultimately contributes to local food security. At the same time, JCP support to the agricultural sector contributes to addressing the problem of unskilled female unemployment. In the first quarter of 2015, female unemployment in Gaza reached 55.2 per cent according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
The agricultural sector in Gaza has been severely affected by the blockade imposed in 2007. Despite a high potential for trade, current exports remain minimal due to the blockade’s heavy restriction on the movement of goods.
“It is the first time that UNRWA helped my business through providing JCP workers, and I really save a lot of money with that. Before the blockade, we exported many flowers to Europe, but since 2007 the business is down and there is no export,” commented Raza Hijazi, the owner of the farm where Ghada and Zaher are working. Before the blockade he employed 20 labourers, but since the closure he is only able to hire three of them. Ibrahim Siham, an owner of a rose farm nearby, agrees. “Over the past years I had to strongly cut down on employees. JCP helps me to increase my business; the money I save this way I invest in planting so my business can hopefully grow,” he said.
Since 2006, the Agency has created 18,385 JCP opportunities in the agricultural sector alone (6,350 female and 12,035 male), thereof 2,571 in the carnation sector. In 2014, a total of 20,545 refugees were employed through the JCP and UNRWA injected US$ 18.1 million into the Gaza economy; in the first quarter of 2015, the Agency created 12,646 JCP opportunities and injected US$ 7 million into the Gaza economy.
Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the security fence or towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 31 July, Israeli forces reportedly killed one person and injured another one who had approached the security fence in northern Gaza.
On 28 July, two Israeli tanks and two bulldozers entered approximately 200 metres into central Gaza and conducted a clearing operation. On 30 July, one Israeli tank and two bulldozers entered approximately 200 metres into central Gaza and conducted a clearing and excavation operation. On 4 August four bulldozers entered approximately 100 metres into Gaza areas and conducted a levelling and excavation operation.
On 29 July, Palestinian medical crews removed a dead body from under the rubble; the person had reportedly been killed during the 2014 summer conflict.
On 30 July, militants fired four rockets towards Israel from northern Gaza; one of the rockets exploded at the launching site and the other three dropped short and landed in Gaza areas. On 1 August, militants fired three rockets from central Gaza and one from Rafah, southern Gaza, towards Israel. Three rockets dropped short and fell into Gaza and one landed next to the security fence on the Israeli side. Hamas security forces interrupted the launch of a second rocket from the same area in Rafah. On 2 August, militants fired two rockets from northern Gaza towards Israel; one of them exploded at the launching site and the other one landed in Gaza areas. On 3 August, militants fired two rockets towards Israel; both rockets dropped short.
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$ 227 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$ 493 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.