Gaza situation report 120
17 -24 November | Issue 120
- UNRWA conducted a field visit for 26 Advisory Commission (AdCom) members and other donor representatives to the Gaza Strip on 18 and 19 November. The delegation received an overview of the challenges currently faced by Palestine refugees in Gaza, now just over one year after the 2014 conflict. Senior UNRWA staff from the Agency’s education, health, relief and social services, microfinance, and infrastructure and camp improvement programmes, as well from the Gender Initiative, Gaza Gateway (the Agency’s information technology (IT) social enterprise), and the Job Creation Programme, met with the delegation to discuss the role of UNRWA in a context of ‘de-development’ and cyclical conflict. Accountability for the 2014 conflict in Gaza, including follow-up to the recommendations of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry, also featured in the AdCom field visit discussions, as well as the current socio-economic situation in the coastal enclave. The delegation also met with local officials and civil society representatives, including human rights organizations, regarding the impact of the Israeli blockade and the future of Gaza as a liveable place until and beyond 2020. The schedule included a visit to two UNRWA schools, Zaitoun Prep Girls B School and Nuseirat Prep Girls E School, as well as the Rimal Health Centre, the Tuffah Distribution Centre and the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre. The field visit followed the AdCom meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan in the previous reporting week. The UNRWA AdCom meets twice a year, usually in June and November, to advise and assist the Commissioner-General in carrying out the UNRWA mandate. Consisting of five members when it was first created, today the Advisory Commission (AdCom) is made up of 27 Members and three Observers.
- The United Nations celebrated Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, marking the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989. “This year, I wish to emphasize the importance of ensuring that the commitments made by the international community to the world’s children are extended to a group of children who are often forgotten or overlooked: those deprived of their liberty,” stated UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This also applies to Gaza, where due to the blockade imposed by Israel, now in its ninth year, an entire generation of children will soon have no memory of a life outside of confinement. Children in Gaza grow up surrounded by poverty, conflict and destruction, but like any other child in the world, they still dream of a better future. On the occasion of Universal Children’s Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched its #fightunfair social media campaign, to highlight unfair issues such as child marriage, child refugees and child displacement. Unfair is also that many children in Gaza, continue to live in rubble due to a slow reconstruction process following the unprecedented destruction during the 2014 conflict. The continuous displacement is even more worrisome in regards to the upcoming winter. To this day, due to the lack of sufficient donor funding, over 13,100 Palestine refugee families, including many children, whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged and are uninhabitable, remain displaced, thousands of them without adequate shelter and thus insufficiently prepared for the cold and rain of the winter months.
- To explore and agree on ways to develop a closer strategic partnership for Palestine Refugees in the State of Palestine, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Lebanese Republic and Syrian Arab Republic, senior representatives of UNRWA and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) organized a regional meeting in Amman, Jordan, on 24 November. The day-long meeting included presentations and discussions regarding UNRWA’s Mid-Term Strategy (2016-2021) as well as UNCEF’s Palestine Area Programme (2017-2019) to identify areas for cooperation and mutual interest as well as to develop joint communications and advocacy strategies. Also initial talks for common action plans with a timeline for finalizing and operationalizing were held. The UNRWA Director of Operations, Mr. Bo Schack, participated in the meeting, together with other Directors or Deputy Directors of the five UNRWA fields of operations. Also present at the meeting was UNRWA Deputy Commissioner General, Ms. Sandra Mitchell.
- The UNRWA Area Offices in Gaza’s five areas – northern Gaza, Gaza, Middle Area, Khan Younis and Rafah – are currently discussing emergency preparedness measures for the upcoming winter, involving UNRWA front line staff from all programmes. UNRWA emergency preparedness includes flood prevention and other infrastructure projects as well as Non-Food Items contingency stocking (especially tarpaulin), the identification of maintenance needs in UNRWA facilities such as schools, health centres or distribution centres.
- In the beginning of November, the UNRWA Job Creation Programme and the UNRWA Gaza and Khan Younis Training Centres initiated a project titled ‘Strengthening the TVET [Technical Vocational Educational Training] towards the reconstruction of Gaza’s critical sectors.’ The project aims at mitigating the effects of emergencies on Palestine refugees through skills and capacity building to increase the opportunities for gainful employment in the context of a crippled economy with, according to the World Bank, one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. The intervention will allow 280 Palestine refugees (at least 100 of them being women) to receive a six-months competency-based training in various technical fields such as carpentry, building, nursing assistant, plastering, tiling, psycho-social assistance or painting, in addition to a three-month apprenticeship programme upon successful completion of the training.
- The UNRWA Gender Initiative (GI), in partnership with the Bunat Al Ghad Community-Based Organisation and supported through the UNRWA Education Programme, on 22 November opened its first “Friend’s Library” in Rafah, southern Gaza. The “Friends’ Library” contains approximately 1,200 books on various topics, in English and Arabic, targeting students aged between 13 and 16 years, and aims at promoting reading skills among the students and their families. During the opening ceremony, UNRWA Chief of Area Office in Rafah, Dr. Yousef Mousa, stated that “this library will be a light for the people of the area, and it is an example of the real partnership between CBOs and the UNRWA Gender Initiative.” The GI is planning to open two more similar libraries in the end of this year, one in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, and the other in central Gaza.
- The UNRWA Field Human Resources Department’s Career Management Division handles all processes related to advertising posts, receiving and screening applications and conducting testing procedures and interviews. During the month of October 2015, UNRWA did not advertise new posts but processed 285 applications for different vacancies announced previously. The Field Staff and Career Development Office is responsible for developing the skills and capabilities of UNRWA employees, e.g. through English language courses, training in legal investigations, mentoring workshops or Ethics e-learning training courses. In October, 16 staff members from different departments sat for an English test, 23 staff members participated in investigation training courses and 24 participants from the Health and the Relief and Social Service Programmes participated in the mentoring workshop. In addition, to date 12,724 UNRWA Gaza Field Office personnel completed the UNRWA ethics training courses. Further, to ensure accountability towards UNRWA staff and beneficiaries, the Field’s Staff Response Unit is responsible for responding to inquiries, complaints and requests from staff and beneficiaries. In October, the unit handled 126 petitions, including 88 received via the UNRWA staff portal. 92.5 per cent of staff submissions were replied to by the Response Unit and the remaining were addressed with the support of focal points.
- The socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip remains dismal. After initial signs of slight recovery in the first six months of 2015, unemployment in quarter three of 2015 reached 42.7 per cent – a 1.2 per cent increase compared to the previous quarter; the number of unemployed persons exceeded 200,000 for the first time since quarter three of 2014, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Further, while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita increased in quarter two of 2015 by 8 per cent compared to the previous quarter, it remains slightly lower year-on-year and is mainly driven by reconstruction following the devastating 2014 conflict: between quarter one and quarter two of 2015, construction added value increased by 79 per cent and sector employment by 66 per cent, both reaching higher levels compared with before the 2014 conflict. While the increase is positive in a relative sense, the employment level in the construction sector remains far below the level prior to the closure of the tunnels, when around 35,000 individuals were employed in the construction sector per quarter.” In addition, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised its 2015 growth projections for Gaza downwards to 6.5 per cent, because of insufficient aid flows to the people of Gaza and import restrictions by Israel on building materials. According to the IMF, real GDP is not expected to reach its 2013 annual level until the end of 2017. Against this context higher food prices add additional hardship to the situation of the people of Gaza. Between September and October 2015, UNRWA noticed an 11 per cent increase in food prices, driven by limited supply and high prices of vegetables following the warm weather in August and September. The UNRWA food price index is currently 19 per cent above its June 2013 level, which makes it even more difficult than usual for the people of Gaza to make ends meet and sustain and support their families.
- In his monthly briefing to the UN Security Council on 19 November, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and the Sinai last week, stating that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be separated from the global threat of terrorism. “Establishing a Palestinian state,” he said, “would yield major dividends not only for Israelis and Palestinians alike, but for the entire region.” In his remarks at the meeting on the international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, held on 24 November in New York, the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson added to this that the hopes of the people of Palestine – one year since the last ruinous conflict in Gaza – for the international community to engage and bring this long-standing conflict to an end, remain at a very low point. While today 136 countries recognize the State of Palestine and its flag flies at the United Nations next to those of Member States, the Deputy Secretary-General said that “these diplomatic advances are not felt by children in Gaza, or by the Palestinians of Nablus and Hebron.” Concluding his remarks, he called on the international community to reaffirm its commitment to bring just peace that the peoples of both Israel and Palestine desperately need and deserve. “This would also be a major much needed contribution to international peace and security,” he said.
- Shelter update
- A comprehensive shelter update will be provided in the next weekly situation report (17 November 08.00hrs – 24 November 08.00hrs) to be issued on 2 December.
Operational environment: While developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem remain alarming, during the reporting week the security situation in Gaza was similar to the previous reporting week. For the seventh consecutive week, however, protests in support of Al Aqsa Mosque and developments in the West Bank continued and again drew hundreds of people, mostly youth, to protest across Gaza and in the vicinity of the perimeter fence.
On 20 November, Israeli forces arrested one Palestinian who tried to cross into Israel from southern Gaza.
Protests were also held in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, against the closure of the Rafah crossing and at UNRWA facilities in relation to employment opportunities and/or shelter requests.
One incident of inter-familial violence was reported when on 20 November a 2-year old Palestinian girl was allegedly killed by her step mother in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. The incident is being investigated.
UNRWA is supporting healthy families through its family planning services
In an environment of increasing health care needs – particularly with the increase of chronic non-communicable diseases, rising health care costs and limited financial resources – family planning has become a pivotal service for refugee families across the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA first introduced family planning services in the Rimal Health Centre in Gaza city in 1970, 45 years ago. By 1982, these pioneer services were included in all of its Health Centres across the Gaza Strip as part of the Agency’s ongoing efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of primary health care services for Palestine refugees. Family planning services, including counselling and the provision of modern contraceptives, are available at all times to women accessing UNRWA health centres.
“Over time, families, especially the women, became aware of the importance of active family planning; they understand how crucial such planning is for the health of themselves and their children,” explained 47-year old Tamam abu Zaied who works as senior nurse in the UNRWA Rimal Health Centre and for the past five years has focused mainly on family planning services.
“I have four children; between each of them I had a two year break as part of my family planning. I have more time for each child and I am better able to care about my own and my family’s health,” confirmed 35 year old refugee Imad Oda.
Family planning services, including reproductive health, counseling and the provision of contraceptives, are an integral part of maternal and child health services through pre-conception care, antenatal care, intra-natal care, or postnatal care, along with growth monitoring for children under 5 years of age.
“The health of mothers is crucial for sustaining healthy families, and particularly healthy children,” commented Soad Abu Hasan, a midwife working in the Rimal Health Centre.
Family planning services will be further strengthened through the recently introduced Family Health Team (FHT) approach. The FHT approach introduced a shift of focus, from treating specific ailments to taking into consideration the comprehensive health status of a family. In terms of family planning this also means an increase in the participation of males in protecting and promoting family health.
Summary of Major Incidents
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian fisher boats and Palestinian farmers near the perimeter fence on a daily basis. On 22 November, Egyptian patrol boats reportedly shot towards Palestinian boats approaching Egyptian waters. No injuries were reported.
Regular protests in support of Al Aqsa mosque and the West Bank were held in the vicinity of the perimeter fence, yet the overall number of participants and demonstrations related to this issue has slightly decreased compared to the last reporting period. Protests took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, east of Gaza city, in the vicinity of Erez crossing or in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. During these protests, some participants reportedly approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with gunfire and tear gas. A total of approximately 31 persons were reportedly injured due to Israeli gun fire and approximately six are reported to have suffered from gas inhalation.
On 18 November, the Israeli Air Force fired two missiles targeting two different Hamas military sites in the Gaza area and two missiles targeting another training site in Maghazi area in central Gaza. No injuries were reported.
On 17 November, militants fired one rocket from central Gaza towards Israel; the rocket landed in an open area in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries were reported.
On 20 November, militants fired two rockets from Gaza city towards Israel; the rockets dropped short and landed inside Gaza areas. No injuries were reported.
On 21 November, militants fired two test rockets towards the sea.
On 23 November, militants fired one rocket from central Gaza towards Israel. The rocket landed in an open area in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries were reported.
On 23 November the Israeli Air Force fired one missile targeting a Hamas training site in Maghazi area in central Gaza. No injuries were reported.
Thanks to generous donors, UNRWA has overcome its immediate and most serious financial crisis and was able to partially bridge the US$ 101 million deficit in its General Fund; to date, a shortfall of US$ 2.61 million remains.
In response to the unprecedented needs faced by Palestine refugees, and the continuous financial shortages and unstable financial footing of the Agency, UNRWA 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$ 247 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which an estimated US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 473 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking US$ 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including US$ 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, US$ 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and US$ 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. Read more in the 2015 oPt Emergency Appeal.
- The Rafah crossing remained closed during the reporting week.
- The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 17 to 19 November and from 22 to 24 November. On 20 November it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 21 November.
Kerem Shalom was open from 17 to 19 November and from 22 to 24 November. It was closed on 20 and 21 November.
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