15 - 22 March 2016 | Issue 136
Operational environment: During the reporting week, regular protests took place in Gaza, predominantly by the Palestinian Journalist Bloc against the decision of stopping Al Aqsa TV Channel from broadcasting on the French satellite provider (Eutelsat). Protestors also regularly took to the streets to demand payment of their salaries from the Government of National Consensus. Further, demonstrations took place by beneficiaries demanding housing from UNRWA.
On 19 March UNRWA students of the Al Fukhari Preparatory Boys School in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, held a protest in their school against UNRWA’s decision to suspend their school principal and his deputy. Three teachers were injured and one UNRWA vehicle sustained damage. The students were asked to leave the school and return home to de-escalate the situation.
On 19 March the Financial and Administrative Control Authority in Gaza, accompanied by police, reportedly broke into the Palestinian Bar Association Office in Gaza city and confiscated computers and other documents.
On 19 March an UNRWA guard in the Deir El Balah Elementary Co-ed School in central Gaza, hired through the Agency’s Job-Creation Programme, was shot at and injured in his leg whilst on duty in front of the school. The motive behind the incident is reportedly and old family dispute, and not related to his role as a JCP or UNRWA. The police opened an investigation.
On 16 March, 36-year old Huda Abu Oda was sitting proudly in front of her stall at the “Our Women Products” exhibition organized by the Women’s Affairs Centre in Shahelat, Gaza city. The exhibition displayed a variety of beautiful and elegant handmade products and homemade food designed and cooked by women from Gaza, aiming to increase their access to the local market.
“I learned to do embroidery when I was still a student in an UNRWA school, and I loved it; then I started to teach my sister and soon after we started to cooperate and sell our products to the community,” explained Huda.
Huda is a Palestine refugee and lives together with her family of nine members in a small home in Beach camp, western Gaza city. Huda lives with a physical disability, but this does not hold her back in seeking to work and prosper amongst the difficult socio-economic circumstances in Gaza.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the average unemployment rate in Gaza during 2015 stood at 41.1 per cent, 36 per cent for men and 59.6 per cent for women. Many refugees, particularly youth, are using their creativity as a way out of cycles of unemployment, poverty, frustration and feelings of hopelessness.
“I wanted to prove to everyone that although I have a disability, I have the ability to be successful,” Huda explained proudly.
Huda and her sister started selling their products to neighbours and were soon able to expand and today they are the owners of a home-based micro-business with ten other women contributing. This includes four other women with disabilities.
Huda and her sister have become the main breadwinners in their family which includes a total of nine members. The money they make through selling embroidery products is far from enough to support all of them, and the family relies on UNRWA assistance. Besides receiving education and primary health care through the Agency, Oda’s family is categorized by UNRWA as Abject Poor (meaning households who live below US$ 1.5 per capita per day) and they receive food assistance on a quarterly basis.
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
Protests in support of Al Aqsa mosque and the situation in the West Bank were held across Gaza and in the vicinity of the perimeter fence. Protests near the perimeter fence, involving approximately 150 persons, predominately youth, took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, east of Gaza city, and in the vicinity of the Erez crossing. During these protests, some participants approached the perimeter fence and reportedly threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with gunfire and tear gas. As a result, the Ministry of Health reported that nine Palestinians were injured, three of them from gas inhalation.
On 15 March, five Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered 70 metres east of Khuza’a area in southern Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
On 21 March, three Israeli bulldozers and two tanks reportedly entered approximately 150 metres into northern Gaza to conduct a levelling and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 81 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
Following the 2014 conflict, 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. UNRWA urgently appeals to donors to generously contribute to its emergency shelter programme to provide displaced Palestine refugees in Gaza with rental subsidies or cash assistance to undertake repair works and reconstruction of their damaged homes.
As presented in UNRWA’s occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Emergency Appeal for 2016, the Agency is seeking US$ 403 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt. The Agency requires US$ 355.95 million for programme interventions in Gaza, including US$ 109.7 million for emergency food assistance, US$ 142.3 million for emergency shelter assistance, US$ 60.4 million for emergency cash-for-work assistance, US$ 4.4 million for emergency health/mobile health clinics and US$ 3.1 for education in emergencies.
Read more in the 2016 oPt emergency appeal.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel prevents all access to and from the Gaza Strip by sea and air. Movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza is restricted to three crossings: Rafah crossing, Erez crossing and Kerem Shalom crossing. Rafah crossing is controlled by the Egyptian authorities and technically allows for the movement of a number of authorized travellers, Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases only. Erez crossing is controlled by Israeli authorities and technically allows for the movement of aid workers and limited numbers of authorized travellers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.