Gaza situation report 144

22 May 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo

10 May - 17 May 2016 | Issue 144

  • On 15 May, the UNRWA Elderly Programme took the lead within the UNRWA Social Services Division  (part of the Agency’s Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP))to celebrate International Day of Families by organizing different recreational activities such as games for children, women, and the elderly, also singing and competitions between the families, accompanied by refreshments. The activities were held in eight different Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRCs) and Women Programme Centres (WPCs) across the Gaza Strip. Approximately 180 Palestine refugee families, or over 1,100 individuals participated. The celebration aimed to provide an opportunity to the families for stress release and a space for the family members to enjoy activities with each other.  The UNRWA Social Services Division aims to contribute to the empowerment of  Palestine refugees, focusing on most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through social interventions. It conducts activities through 14 Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), seven WPCs and seven Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres. The Social Services Division contains five programmes: the Youth Programme, Elderly Programme, Orphan Programme, Women’s Programme Centres (WPC) and the Disability Programme.
  • UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) in Gaza organized a Smile Festival on 10 May to help address the psychosocial needs of UNRWA students through recreational and creative arts activities. The event aimed to enhance the psychological wellbeing of children at UNRWA schools and their parents, and to strengthen the relationship of schools with the local community. Around 1,000 students and their parents from ten UNRWA schools participated in the festival, as well as schools teachers and principals. Participants engaged in different activities such as songs, drama, dabkah dance and a music show. The festival took place in Bani Sohila UNRWA Preparatory Boys School B in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. In the Gaza Strip, due to limited space, high population density, poverty and the unparalleled destruction from the 2014 conflict, playgrounds and other safe spaces for children to play are rare. The Festival offered an opportunity for the children to enjoy outside activities in a safe environment. The summer 2014 hostilities had a devastating psychosocial impact on individuals and communities in Gaza, adding to the effect already felt from almost nine years of blockade and recurrent conflict. The shock of losing a home and family members and returning to neighborhoods to find them destroyed can contribute to eroding any sense of certainty and hope in the future. According to CMHP, children exposed to violence often express a loss of trust in others. Through CMHP, UNRWA maintains a network of 250 psychosocial counsellors in UNRWA schools as well as 23 counsellors and 5 legal advisors at health centres. The CMHP has a particular focus on school students and psychosocial counsellors, where refugee children receive individual and group counselling, including those who may have dropped out of school.
  • The unemployment rate in Gaza stood at 41.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. It is practically unchanged from the unemployment rate for 2015 overall (41.1 per cent). This is higher than any other economy of the world: looking at the World Bank’s database, the highest measured unemployment for a country in 2014 was 31 per cent (Mauritania). While the overall unemployment rate of West Bank and Gaza combined is lower (at 26.2 per cent in 2004 according to the database) there is a significant difference between the unemployment rate in the West Bank and in Gaza. As additional comparison, the average unemployment rate in the Middle East and North Africa region stood at 11 per cent in 2014. Unemployment in Gaza reached extremely high levels only in recent years as a direct result of the successive layers of movement restrictions imposed by Israel and the plunging socioeconomic spiral (back in 1999 unemployment in Gaza was ‘only’ 16.9 per cent).
  • The UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) is performing maintenance and repair activities across 43 UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip to help ensure that Palestine students have a safe, comfortable and conducive learning environment. Each of the schools is provided with a new generator. In addition to the generators the project also provides the schools with desks, laptops, computers, water pumps and school equipment. The generators mitigate the impact of the shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) in April which reportedly triggered electricity blackouts of 18-20 hours per day, further undermining the delivery of basic services such as education. The generators are also part of the Agency’s emergency preparedness measures. Thirty-one of these schools were among the 90 UNRWA school buildings, where UNRWA provided humanitarian assistance – including water, food, and non-food items – to over internally displaced persons staying in its designated shelters throughout the 2014 conflict, reaching a peak of 290,000 IDPs in 90 designated emergency shelters.
  • During the reporting week, UNRWA TV, the Agency’s satellite television channel, started preparations to produce a new educational season with full multimedia episodes that not only focus on content but also emphasize life skills, generic concepts and competencies. After last season’s episodes in a 'semi multimedia style of presentation' UNRWA TV continues to work towards a new and modernized format to complement the Agency’s Education Reform Strategy and to enhance refugee students’ learning. By incorporating purposive multimedia segments like songs, drama, animation, documentary and info graphic into the design of the educational TV shows, they become more entertaining and engaging. The multimedia style also makes it possible to incorporate content that raises young learners’ social awareness and values, and supports citizenship and heritage. In this season, children are doing the drama segments. Auditions for school children were conducted to select talented young actors for the drama segments and filming is planned to start on 1 June. UNRWA TV produces episodes on English, Arabic, Science and Mathematics for Grades 4-9 (9 - 14 years). The satellite channel and its corresponding YouTube channel also broadcast and produce humanitarian communication campaigns and awareness material. The new season will be available in 2017, when relevant links will be shared. UNRWA TV is a regional satellite channel established as an UNRWA project in 2012, with production personnel and facilities based in Gaza.
  • A Belgian delegation headed by its Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, Mr. Didier Reynders, visited Gaza on 10 May. The delegation was briefed on the UNRWA reconstruction programme at the site of a refugee family home that is in the process of being reconstructed in Beit Hanoun, by Mr. Muin Moqat, the Acting Deputy Chief Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme – Design and Urban Planning. Following the briefing, the delegation met with this refugee family whose home is being reconstructed and visited their temporary residential quarters. The delegation also met with the UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, for a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the UNRWA response. The two UNRWA briefings were part of a visit organized by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) whose objective was to give the delegation an overview of the main components contributing to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including chronic vulnerabilities and the increased needs as a result of the 2014 conflict, as well as the challenges and opportunities that remain ahead for the full recovery, reconstruction and transformation of Gaza.
  • During the reporting week, UNRWA continued with its disbursement of Temporary Shelter Cash Assistance (TSCA) in Gaza. The funds with a volume of US $9.3 million are part of the German contribution for the repair and reconstruction of homes that have been rendered uninhabitable during the 2014 conflict. With the German support, approximately 8,500 eligible families who are in the process of, or are waiting to repair or reconstruct their shelters that were damaged or destroyed during the 2014 conflict, have received payments to afford appropriate and dignified accommodation. The disbursement will cover all of the monthly payments for the first quarter of 2016. Following the 2014 conflict, Germany has been a key partner of the UNRWA shelter repair and reconstruction response in Gaza following the 2014 conflict, providing a total of US$ 65.4 million (EUR 57 million). Overall in 2015, Germany contributed EUR 83.2 million (US$ 91.7 million) to UNRWA. Germany is the Agency’s fifth largest donor and has been a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission since 2005.
  • Shelter update
This week
  • During the reporting week, UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 800 000 in funding available for severe repair works. The funds will reach a total of 179 refugee families across the Gaza Strip. The families are able to access this assistance through local banks..
Overview of assistance disbursed (as of 19 May 2016)
  • The UNRWA shelter assessment confirmed 142,071 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally destroyed. 5,417 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 123,837 minor damages.
  • Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 182.7 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or demolished during the 2014 summer conflict.
  • UNRWA has completed payments to over 67,000 Palestine refugee families – more than half of the caseload – for minor repair works, to 2,856 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, to 13 families for major repair works and to 107 families for reconstruction. Payment transfers for over 11,800 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for 668 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters are ongoing.
  • 13,250 families have received a rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014. Disbursement of subsequent installments entailed further eligibility checks through which over 9,900 families have received the relevant rental subsidy payments during the period from January 2015 to March 2016.
Funding gaps and needs
  • Due to lack of funding, as of 19 May 2016, over 60,200 refugee families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimated repair costs: US$ 68 million). Further, 3,192 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimated repair costs: US$ 28.7 million), 1,128 families have not received payments to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes (total estimated costs: US$ 10.2 million). Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of approximately 49,300 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
  • As of today, 6,569 families have not received funding to reconstruct their totally destroyed homes. UNRWA secured funding to reconstruct approx. 2,000 totally destroyed shelters. However, funding is currently not the biggest barrier to reconstruct homes, rather it is complex documentation requirements related to proving title of land, building permits and building design coupled with UNRWA vulnerability targeting. For all reconstruction UNRWA prioritizes families based on poverty status (an excellent indicator for vulnerability in this context) and larger families, unlike other reconstruction actors in Gaza. Following the suspension of private import of cement under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), effective 3 April, availability of cement is currently also a barrier to progress.
  • 8,500 eligible families displaced by the 2014 conflict have received  transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) payments which cover all of the monthly payments for the first quarter of 2016. Funding is necessary to continue supporting these families in 2016 as long as their totally destroyed or severely damaged homes have not been reconstructed or repaired. The US$ 23.3 million in TSCA needed to assist the 2014 conflict emergency caseload in 2016 has been included in the oPt Emergency Appeal 2016.


Operational environment: During the reporting week, a number of protests and demonstrations took place across Gaza, predominantly to commemorate the 68th anniversary of Al Nakba*. Other demonstrations were held regarding financial entitlements for families of those killed or injured during the 2014 summer hostilities, return to the West Bank of the Nativity Church Deportees, protesting the closure of Rafah, the blockade, electricity shortages, in support of reconciliation between different Palestinian factions, in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisons, and in support of developments at Al Aqsa Mosque and in the West Bank.

During the reporting week, a Palestinian reportedly continued his sit-in and hunger strike for the 18th consecutive day in Gaza city, requesting the government for a job opportunity. On 15 May, the police forced him to end his sit-in and leave the area.

On 10 May, a family dispute reportedly took place east of Gaza city. Gun fire was reported, but no injuries. The police reportedly intervened and brought the situation under control after several arrests. Also on 10 May, a Palestinian man was arrested by Israeli forces when he reportedly attempted to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence east of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza.

On 11 May, a family dispute reportedly took place in Khan Younis area, southern Gaza. Guns were reportedly used. The police reportedly intervened and brought the situation under control after several arrests. One person was reported as killed.

On 12 May, two unknown armed persons assaulted and threatened three UNRWA guards at UNRWA Jabalia Elementary Co-Ed C and D School in Jabalia camp. Another ten armed persons were reportedly in the surrounding area of the school premises. One guard was injured, with a broken arm.  UNRWA is looking into the incident.

On 12 May, unknown persons reportedly broke into the house of an employee of the Ministry of Health. Two persons were reported injured and one woman was killed. The police opened an investigation.

On 14 May, two Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces when they reportedly attempted to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence east of Bureij, central Gaza. On 15 May, a Palestinian man was arrested by Israeli forces when he reportedly attempted to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

*’Nakba’ is the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe’ and refers to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the accompanied displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

UNRWA response

“As a woman, I am proud of serving other women”: Khitam Ibrahim a midwife in an UNRWA Health Centre
Khitam Ibrahim during her work as a midwife, providing health services to a patient in an UNRWA Health Centre in northern Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
Khitam Ibrahim during her work as a midwife, providing health services to a patient in an UNRWA Health Centre in northern Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

Khitam Ibrahim, a 46-year old Palestine refugee, has worked for the past 13 years as a midwife in an UNRWA Health Centre (Al-Saftawi) in northern Gaza. Khitam supports her husband and five children.

“I love my work and I am proud of it because I feel I am a productive person serving my community,” Khitam said. “As a woman I have the ability to understand other women’s needs, and in my work I have the chance to help these other women to address and meet their needs,” Khitam commented.

Khitam is one of about 100 midwives working in the 21 UNRWA Health Centres across the Gaza Strip. Midwives work with women and their families throughout the cycle of maternal health care, from preconception care (PCC), antenatal care (ANC), postnatal care (PNC) to family planning.

“To be a midwife is amazing, because you have the chance to affect others’ lives,” Khitam said. “If I could go back, I would choose to work as a midwife all over again.”

As part of its ongoing efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of the primary health care services it delivers to Palestine refugees, UNRWA has introduced the Family Health Team approach. Primary health care services provided by the family health team focus on families during the entire life cycle from preconception care, anti-natal, natal care, post-natal and child care, to adolescent and adult care.

“My work is about providing comprehensive health services for the women, involving their family members, from detecting hypertension, providing folic acid before a pregnancy, breast cancer detection and family planning,” Khitam recalled.

Khitam also conducts home visits to the patients who are in a special situation, such as accessibility issues. If a patient misses an appointment, she will contact her by phone to assess the need for a home visit. Additionally, she is involved in awareness raising sessions for patients and distributes brochures on topics such as nutrition before and during pregnancy and family planning. Khitam is one of UNRWA’s committed staff members who courageously worked during the conflict in 2014.

“It is not easy to leave your family alone, especially my children, during the conflict, but I know people need me, so I have to go and help them,” Khitam commented.

Khitam also mentioned the improvements made in the Health Centre over the past few years and how it affected the midwives’ work. One example is the Family Health Team approach, which 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 effort to increase in the participation of men in protecting and promoting family health.

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 14 May, two Palestinians were reportedly arrested and their boats confiscated by Israeli forces. On 15 May, ten Palestinians were reportedly arrested and their boats confiscated by Israeli forces.

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 30 persons, predominately youth, took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza. 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 one Palestinian was injured as a result.

On 11 May, militants reportedly fired two rockets from Beit Lahia area, northern Gaza, towards the sea. No injuries or damages were reported.

On 12 May, militants reportedly fired two rockets from Beit Hanoun area, northern Gaza, one rocket reportedly exploded at the launching site and one dropped short. No injuries or damages were reported.

Funding Needs

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.

  • Rafah crossing was open during the reporting week, from 11 to 12 May. It was closed on 10 May and from 14 to 16 May.
  • Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. It was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff on 10 May, on 13 May and from 15 to 16 May. It was closed from 11 to 12 May and on 14 May.
  • 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 on 10 May, on 13 May and from 15 to 16 May. It was closed from 11 to 12 May and on 14 May.