Gaza situation report 138
29 March – 5 April 2016 | issue 138
- The UNRWA-supported social enterprise GGateway (Gaza Gateway) celebrated its launch event on 3 April in Gaza city. The event was attended by senior UNRWA staff including the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, as well as representatives from other UN agencies, non-government organizations, Gaza-based businesses as well as Information Technology (IT) graduates. In addition, a delegation from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) – one of the main donors to the GGateway – arrived in Gaza to mark the important occasion. Following speeches by UNRWA, GGateway and KOICA representatives, a dinner was enjoyed by attendees, to encourage networking amongst the audience. The GGateway is an UNRWA initiative that serves to encourage technology innovation, invest in young, talented Gazans, inject employment and skills into the economy and develop private sector partnerships, for example by leveraging the short- and medium-term IT needs of UNRWA into a permanent part of the Gaza employment structure. The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry is the focus of much hope in Gaza because it represents a rare opportunity for high-value exports despite the blockade. GGateway has by now successfully handled five UNRWA projects and is employing 50 project associates. On the same day, the KOICA delegation, led by the country director of KOICA’s Palestine office, Mr. Youngwood Kim, undertook a field visit with UNRWA, focusing on the Agency’s shelter self-help repair programme. The visit included the visit to two families in Shujjaiya in eastern Gaza city whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the 2014 conflict and who were able to reconstruct and repair them with support from UNRWA.
- As part of its ongoing education reform which promotes an inclusive and child-centred approach to learning, UNRWA has launched a healthy lifestyle campaign in its schools in Gaza. The campaign aims at raising awareness amongst education staff, students, refugee communities, host government, UNRWA partners and donors on how to promote a healthy school environment. As part of this campaign, on 3 April the Al Madena Al Monawra Preparatory Girls School in Rafah, southern Gaza, organized a healthy lifestyle festival. The celebration included exhibitions and information desks on healthy food and lifestyle, shows and sketches, a provisional restaurant serving juice and healthy dishes (with the school students playing “waitresses”), or drawing activities. The UNRWA school health strategy is part of the Agency’s Inclusive Education Approach and promotes four core areas for healthy development of students: comprehensive health services, a child-friendly and safe environment, health education, and nutrition. In Gaza, the main barriers to student health can be categorized in three dimensions: environmental, such as poverty, a high population density and poor living conditions, which can result in health hazards; behavioural risks related to attitudes and knowledge of students; and existing individual needs of students, such as chronic or temporary diseases, disabilities or impairments. Through its comprehensive services, UNRWA addresses and tries to mitigate the impact of each of these potential barriers to child health.
- UNRWA organizes regular meetings between its Director of Operations in Gaza and key editors from the local media every six to eight weeks as part of its Community Engagement and communications with communities (CWC) approach. The Agency understands the importance of the local media in communicating with beneficiaries in Gaza. The aim of these meetings is to update local media representatives on UNRWA programmes and projects and to answer their questions on a variety of topics. On 3 April, Mr. Bo Schack again welcomed media to the UNRWA Field Office. A total of 39 media outlets attended the press event, among them Al Jazeera, Mayadeen, Al Alam, Press TV, BBC, Palestine TV or Reuters. The press meeting was aired live on Al Quds TV. The UNRWA Director focused his remarks on UNRWA innovation and improvements through Information Technology (IT), the Agency’s support for talented youth, its work towards the creation of jobs, empowerment of women and its regular operations in the areas of construction and reconstruction, education, and health. The questions from media representatives mainly revolved around reconstruction, the import of construction materials, the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism as well as the Agency’s recruitments.
- To raise awareness amongst students, parents and the larger community about the danger and impact of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), with support from UNRWA, organized an event to mark the annual International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action observance on 4 April. Activities were held in the UNRWA Gaza co-ed Elementary A school under this year’s slogan “Mine action is humanitarian action.” The event included speeches, theatre sketches and workshops, to increase awareness to the dangers that ERW pose. Mr. Dave Hutton, Head of UNRWA Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, attended the event and represented UNRWA through his remarks. Mr. Hutton stated that in in Gaza, since 2014, 115 civilians have been victims of ERW-related accidents, which is 115 too many. ERW comprises unexploded ordnance – bombs, mortars, grenades, missiles, cluster munitions or other devices – that fail to detonate on impact but remain volatile and can kill if touched or moved – or abandoned explosive ordnance. In Gaza, UNRWA, with guidance from UNMAS, implements outreach activities on safety and risk education regarding ERWs. UNRWA provides training to front-line staff, including teachers, as well as social workers and engineers, on how to recognize, demarcate and signal the presence of ERW safely. This will ensure that staff are equipped to pass on ERW risk awareness learnings to the refugee community, in particular to students attending UNRWA schools. After the summer hostilities of 2014, UNMAS estimates that more than 7,000 explosive ERWs were estimated to remain in the Gaza Strip. Although as of today approximately 42 per cent of ERW (2,953 ERW items) have been identified and destroyed, the remaining 58 per cent continue to pose a threat to the population living in Gaza. In total, to date in the occupied Palestinian territory, UNMAS has surveyed and cleared 246 ERW-infected sites, including schools; it has provided training to 10,000 UN staff, humanitarian workers, internally displaced persons, engineers, construction workers and other at-risk populations. In addition, it continues to monitor ERW demolition processes and has ensured the safe destruction of over 2,300 items of ERWs including aircraft bombs. UNRWA TV continues to broadcast ERW Awareness videos, which can also be viewed here.
- In March, UNRWA completed four infrastructure projects including one school in Beach Camp, phase three of the Rafah Rehousing Project and two Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects (construction of 47 water wells that will supply water to 95 UNRWA schools and upgrading of a water well in Rafah, southern Gaza). As of March 2016, the total value of UNRWA projects at various stages from design to completion approved by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit is US$ 228.6 million. UNRWA received COGAT feedback for seven projects during March. Out of the seven projects, two received full approval i.e. approval of all materials requested (both are very small projects with a combined value of US$ 10,800), and two projects were partially approved (approval for only some dual use list items). The three remaining projects received approval for ABC materials (aggregate, steel reinforcement bars and cement) only. In addition, UNRWA also received approval for the remaining dual use list items for a project that had previously been approved for ABC materials only. In March, the Israeli authorities stopped the coordination of trucks carrying approved and coordinated materials into Gaza for UNRWA contractors for a few days, but agreed to resume coordination. These trucks restarted entering Gaza on 30 March. For more information on UNRWA construction activities in Gaza, please consult the attached March 2016 Construction Update.
- In the context of one of the highest unemployment rates worldwide, and to support innovation and entrepreneurs within the Gaza population, UNRWA, through its microfinance department (MD), aims at improving the quality of life of small business owners, micro-entrepreneurs and poor households through the provision of credit and other financial services that sustain jobs, decrease unemployment, reduce poverty, and provide income-generating and asset-building opportunities to Palestine refugees. During the month of February, the MD disbursed 390 loans valued at US$ 577,050; it also closed 306 loans. The average loan amount in February was US$ 1,480. Approximately 43 per cent of the MD clients in Gaza are female, and 12 per cent are 24 years old or less; 84 per cent are Palestine refugees. In addition to providing loans, the MD also maintains a Small and Medium Enterprise Business Training Programme through which it offers courses in management, English language or business communications for business owners, business graduates, start-ups or unemployed persons. In February, the MD conducted seven workshops reaching 151 participants, 47 per cent of them being women, and 56 per cent being between 15 and 24 years old. The main obstacle to the development of successful businesses in Gaza is the Israeli-imposed blockade, entering its 10th year in June 2016. The impact of this includes fuel and electricity shortages and limited purchasing power of the population due to lack of (sufficient) income as a result of a crippled economy. This is exacerbated by falling wages and rising prices, poverty, and aid dependency (see also Gaza situation report 137).
Overview of assistance disbursed (as of 31 March 2016)
Funding gaps and needs
- Hundreds of runners and walkers participated in the Gaza 5K in New York on 26 March. The Gaza 5K is an annual awareness and fund raising walk/run hosted by UNRWA USA (the American Friends of UNRWA - a National Committee and non-profit organization that supports the work of UNRWA). The event was the first of three to be held throughout the year in three different cities, and it raised more than US $170,600 in funding. Proceeds from the Gaza 5K walk/run benefit UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme for Palestinian children in Gaza who receive psycho-social support having lived through the 2014 conflict and the continuing blockade, witnessing death, destruction and displacement. Due to the blockade an entire generation of children will soon have no memory of a life outside of confinement, risking another generation in Gaza facing a bleak future. The next Gaza 5K will take place in Washington DC on 21 May.
- On 4 April, the Gaza fishing zone was extended from six to nine nautical miles in areas below the Wadi Gaza - located in the centre of the Gaza Strip – as per media reports. The partial extension of the fishing zone reportedly came following an agreement reached between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli authorities. The expansion is expected to add approximately 400,000 shekels (approximately US$ 105,800) to the Gaza fishing industry, reports the New York Times. Since the imposition of the blockade in 2007, Gaza fishermen are forced to work within a limited designated fishing zone. Due to these access restrictions, since 2007 more than 3,000 fishermen have not had access to 85 per cent of the maritime areas agreed on in the 1995 Oslo Accords; as a result, the fish catch – a principal part of the Gaza diet – has decreased dramatically over the years of closure, as the UN already warned in 2012. The fishing zone has been altered various times since the imposition of the blockade and this uncertainty regarding access restrictions impacts physical security and livelihoods. In addition, fishermen working beyond the limited zone regularly face the risk of detention and/or live fire from Israeli naval forces, including the damaging or confiscation of their boats. While in the devastating socio-economic context of Gaza the expansion of the fishing zone is a positive development, UNRWA reaffirms that this extension is not a substitute for a full lifting of the blockade.
- The UNRWA Safety and Security Division (SSD) training team was formed in early 2015, mainly to teach the core elements of safety and security to the UNRWA Gaza guard force as well as to other UNRWA personnel in Gaza. In March 2016, SSD trained a total of 725 UNRWA staff and personnel recruited through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme on guard training, fire safety , installation evacuation, first aid or Area Staff Safety Approaches in the Field Environment training. In addition, 643 UNRWA teachers passed through the Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) training as part of SSD’s ERW training programme, and 60 UNRWA installations in Gaza were surveyed by SSD as part of its strategy to assess all UNRWA installations in Gaza by the end of May 2016
Operational environment: During the reporting week, protests and demonstrations continued across Gaza, predominately to express solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Regular protests and rallies also took place in the vicinity of the perimeter fence (see Summary of Major Incidents) to mark the 40th anniversary of “Land Day.” Palestinians have commemorated Land Day since 1976, in protest of the Israeli occupation. During one such rally on 30 March in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, supporters of different factions clashed and reportedly used chairs and batons against one another. Four injuries were reported.
On 29 March, a Palestinian who was traveling for medical treatment to the West Bank was reportedly arrested by Israeli forces at Erez crossing.
On 30 March The Ministry of Interior conducted an emergency exercise involving the emergency services in Gaza to tests their capabilities in the Middle Area. This involved loud explosions across the area. No injuries were reported.
“Your health is important”: UNRWA starts healthy life style campaign in its schools
On 3 April 2016, UNRWA launched its healthy lifestyle campaign under the slogan “your health is important” in UNRWA schools in Gaza. The campaign is part of an Agency-wide approach to raise awareness amongst students, parents, education staff and the wider community about promoting a healthy school environment.
The opening ceremony took place in the Al Madina Al Monawra Preparatory Girls school in Rafah, southern Gaza, and included exhibitions and information booths on healthy food and the prevention of diseases such as diabetes, theatre/music shows and sketches, a provisional restaurant serving fresh juice and healthy dishes (with the school students as “waitresses”), and drawing activities.
Twelve-year old Raghed Abu Shammalah participated as a “waitress” in the “Al Madina Al Monawra restaurant for healthy food” during the opening ceremony, contributing to the promotion of healthy food amongst parents and students: “By eating healthy food, we help protect our bodies,” she commented at the event.
One of her teachers, Ms. Rania Abu Taha, who helped organize the ceremony, added: “If students learn about health, healthy lifestyles and potential diseases while they are still children, they often internalize the information and hopefully maintain a healthy lifestyle when they grow up.”
For the students to internalize the advice given by UNRWA education staff, it is important that they take ownership of the campaign and start promoting a healthy environment in their schools themselves. One important tool to reach students and include them in outreach activities is the UNRWA school parliaments.
“Every Thursday we organize an awareness session for other students during which we address questions related to healthy food habits and nutrition,” commented 15-year old Ruba Abu Lobda, who is a member of the health committee in the Rafah Al Madina Al Monawra school parliament.
The healthy lifestyle campaign is part of the UNRWA school health strategy which promotes the healthy development of students by implementing a child-centred education approach and providing child-friendly school spaces, quality education on health and nutrition, and comprehensive health services through the UNRWA Health Programme.
The campaign will intensify over the next two months and include a variety of activities in different UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip. These include open discussions with students and parents in cooperation with the UNRWA Health Programme on children’s health, healthy eating habits and the prevention of diabetes, iron deficiency and obesity. Other activities planned are a drawing competition reflecting the students’ understanding of the campaign, open school days to celebrate World Health Day on 7 April, the joint preparation of healthy breakfasts, and the introduction of additional physical exercises to promote sports activities amongst the students. In addition, a healthy lifestyle campaign jingle sung by UNRWA students from Gaza and produced by UNRWA TV, will be broadcast in schools at the beginning of each shift and during breaks.
Summary of Major Incidents
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 1 April, two Palestinians were reportedly injured in one such incident east of Rafah city. On 2 April, one boat was damaged and sunk after Israeli patrol boats had reportedly opened fire toward it, west of Rafah city in southern Gaza.
On 30 March, approximately 90 civilians, including youth, held a protest near Erez Crossing, west of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, to mark the 40th anniversary of "Land Day". Some of the participants reportedly approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli forces reportedly responded with gunfire. No injuries were reported.
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 250 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. The Ministry of Health reported that five Palestinians were injured as a result, three of them reportedly from gas inhalation.
On 29 February, three Israeli bulldozers and one tank reportedly entered approximately 150 metres into central Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
On 31 March, four Israeli bulldozers and one tank reportedly entered approximately 150 metres into southern Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
On 1 April, a stray bullet reportedly coming from the Egyptian area, south of Rafah city, injured a Palestinian child in her foot.
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 travelers, 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 travelers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.
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