As part of his regular outreach visits to the community, on 25 and 26 April the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, visited UNRWA staff, beneficiaries and installations, in the Gaza city area. Together with the Chief of Area of Gaza, Mr. Majed Al Bayed, he visited the UNRWA Rimal Health Centre in Gaza city where he engaged with health centre personnel as well as patients and their children. After that, Mr. Schack went to Beach camp in western Gaza city to get an overview of the camp life circumstances; he also visited a refugee family with the unusual passion of collecting and creating imitations of archaeological pieces. On 26 April the director continued his outreach visit and met with a variety of different community leaders in the Chief of Area office in Gaza city to discuss, explain and receive feedback on UNWRA services and operations.
The blockade on Gaza will enter its 10th year in June 2016; the heavy restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza have not only crushed the enclave’s originally trade-based economy, they are also responsible for sky-rocketing unemployment rates, extreme poverty, food insecurity and contribute to depression, hopelessness and confinement, particularly among youth. In addition, the blockade creates high additional costs for humanitarian organizations operating in the Strip, reducing already scarce financial means for humanitarian interventions: in 2015 alone, additional staffing, transit and logistical costs resulting from Israeli requirements regarding access and monitoring of all UNRWA imports into the Gaza Strip amounted to almost US$ 8.6 million. This is equivalent to the cost of building six UNRWA schools or distributing food to the current caseload of approximately 930,000 beneficiaries for five weeks. The US$ 8.6 million does not include similar access costs that private contractors have incurred for shipping construction materials into Gaza through Kerem Shalom under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). Such additional costs have also impacted the Agency’s cash assistance for self-help repair and reconstruction interventions under the GRM. The US$ 8.6 million also excludes inflation (as projects are delayed prices increase and thus UNRWA is required to either downscale a project or request additional funding from a donor), as well as the price UNRWA and its staff are paying vis-à-vis the Agency’s credibility among the Gazan community, from beneficiaries to contractors, and among the donor community.
A Startup Weekend Education event that presented unique opportunities for anyone interested in education innovation and to learn how to launch and scale their endeavors, took place in Gaza city from 28 to 30 April. Also the UNRWA-supported GGateway (Gaza Gateway) social enterprise participated in the 54-hour long event. Startup events are very community focused and provide a place for potential entrepreneurs to find co-founders, mentors and momentum for their ideas. They offer participants the chance to experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up a life as a startup. During the whole event, participants have the chance to meet mentors, investors, cofounders and sponsors who are ready to help them get started. The GGateway is an UNRWA initiative that serves to encourage technology innovation, invest in young, talented Palestinians from Gaza, 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.
With a view to contribute to the protection of the environment in Gaza, generate income for Gaza contractors and to raise funds for its operations in a pro-active and creative way, the UNRWA Gaza Field Office (GFO) is piloting a recycling project based on the collection of paper, carton and plastic. These materials are collected and sold to contractors who use it to manufacture egg cartons, as well electricity tubes or nylon garbage bags. If the pilot project is successful, UNRWA plans to extend it to other installations in Gaza; the thereby generated revenues are planned to be invested in the Agency’s interventions, most likely to offer additional short-term employment opportunities for Palestine refugees through its Job-Creation Programme (JCP). In 2015, UNRWA created job opportunities for 32,000 beneficiaries through the JCP, injecting US$ 27.1 million into the Gaza economy. This is a strong increase from 2001 when the JCP was first launched and UNRWA created job opportunities for 10,913 beneficiaries, injecting US$ 7.9 million into the Gaza economy. In total in 2015, UNRWA created over 29,000 jobs through its interventions, which represent 10.5 per cent of all employed workforce in Gaza and contributed to reducing unemployment by 6.2 per cent.
Operational environment: During the reporting week, protests and demonstrations took place across Gaza, predominantly in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and in solidarity with Syrians in Aleppo. Other demonstrations were held regarding facilitation of travel for medical treatment for injured persons and those with special needs, in support of reconciliation between different Palestinian factions, to celebrate International Labor Day and in support of developments at Al Aqsa Mosque and in the West Bank (see Summary of Major Incidents).
On 26 April, members of one family reportedly held protests, burned tires and opened fire in the air in Gaza City. The protests were allegedly held to demand the execution of the person arrested for the killing of a family member on 21 April. The police reportedly intervened and dispersed the protestors. No injuries were reported.
On 27 April, two Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces when they reportedly attempted to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence.
On 27 April, an explosion reportedly occurred in a residence in the Gaza area; one person was reported as injured.
On 27 April, two persons reportedly held a sit-in and started a hunger strike in Gaza City. They demanded the government to provide them with a job opportunity. One of the protesters reportedly left the same day, the other person continued the sit-in and hunger strike for six days until 2 May.
On 30 April, four Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces when they reportedly attempted to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence.
On 1 May, during an activity organized by the Fatah movement in Jabalia camp, northern Gaza, to mark the 27th anniversary of the assassination of Fatah leader Khalil Al Wazir, an internal dispute allegedly occurred. No injuries were reported.
On 2 May, an explosion reportedly occurred in and area east of Jabalia camp, northern Gaza. One person was killed and two injuries were reported.
With passion and a strong belief in the impact of her own work, 36-year old Sabrin Abu Hasoun takes on the everyday challenges of her job with a positive attitude. She is convinced that her work as Social Intervention Supervisor(SIS) for the UNRWA Relief and Social Service Programme (RSSP) office in Rafah, southern Gaza, is substantial to create positive change in other people’s lives.
“What motivates me is to see the changes and improvements in other people’s lives through my work,” Sabrin, who dreamt becoming a Social Worker since a very young age, stated. “I believe social work is one of the best forms of humanitarian work; it is all about people and how to help them get a better and more secure and stable life.”
The RSSP Social Intervention Unit (SIU) was established in 2011 and works with a wide-range of partners – such as community-based organizations, non-government organizations or community groups - to assist beneficiaries in need. Through the unit and through RSSP in general, UNRWA aims to achieve positive change on the individual, family and community level, promoting the development of the overall community and self-reliance of less advantaged members of the Palestine refugee community – especially women, children, persons with disabilities or the elderly.
The Social Intervention Unit provides seven different types of interventions, (domestic, educational, economic, medical, behavioral, psychological and shelter) often in cooperation with other UNRWA programmes such as the Community Mental Health Programme or the Health and Education Programme. Interventions focus on educational interventions to support children who dropped out of school, economic interventions to help families address or overcome financial difficulties, or shelter interventions for beneficiaries living in insufficient shelters, for example through UNRWA’s rehousing projects or winterization campaigns; further, the unit provides medical, behavioural and psycho-social interventions, frequently targeting Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases or children suffering from abuse.
“Besides interventions, we also work on prevention and implement workshops and awareness sessions for the community on GBV, positive forms of stress release or psycho-social support for children and their mothers, “ Sabrin explained.
Cases in need of protection and intervention are usually detected through self-reporting and through home visits by RSSP social workers (through PAS), or they are referred to the Social Intervention Unit by other UNRWA programmes.
“When I am working as a case manager, I usually ask them from where they know about the UNRWA social intervention unit; most of them say they know someone who has received support from us. This makes me happy and proud, and I feel my work has value and impact,” Sabrin recalled.
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 26 April, two Palestinians were reportedly arrested and their boat confiscated by Israeli forces. On 1 May, two boats were reportedly damaged.
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 180 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 three Palestinians were injured as a result, two of them reportedly from gas inhalation.
On 27 April, four Israeli bulldozers and one tank entered approximately 200 metres into central Gaza area, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. As well, two Israeli bulldozers and one tank reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
On 30 April, Israeli forces reportedly opened fire towards Palestinian areas east of Rafah; a woman was reported as injured as she fell on the ground while fleeing.
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.
Kerem Shalom crossing is the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip and is usually open five days a week. It was open from 26 to 28 April and from 1 to 3 May. It was closed 29 and 30 April.