Gaza situation report 148

19 June 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo

7 June – 14 June 2016 | issue 148

  • The blockade on Gaza, which entered its tenth year in June 2016, in addition to recurrent armed violence and conflict, remains the principle cause of the socio-economic and psychosocial crisis in Gaza. But what does it mean to live under a blockade? During June 2016, UNRWA shares the stories of Jihad, Amjad, Hevam and Salwa and their everyday resilience as they struggle to make ends meet: Jihad needs to search through the rubble from the devastating 2014 conflict to find steel and stones to sell in the local market; fisherman Amjad often returns from the Gaza sea to his family with empty hands due to the heavy access restrictions that led to the disruption of livelihoods and a dramatic decrease in the fish catch; Hevam and her sick son Ali are desperately waiting for a permit from Israel to leave Gaza and get medical treatment; and for Salwa and her family, clean running water is a far off dream. Their stories are real stories; their lives are real lives – and these are just four out of hundreds of thousands of people living in similar conditions in the Gaza Strip, under restrictions that have reduced access to livelihoods, basic services and housing, disrupted family life, and undermined the people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future. For more information, follow the hashtag #liftgazablockade and visit the UNRWA page: Real stories, real lives – what the Gaza blockade means.
     
  • The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme promotes the development and self-reliance of vulnerable Palestine refugees – including persons with disabilities, women, children and the elderly – through numerous interventions in Gaza. In May 2016, RSSP continued with the second round of food distribution this year and provided food assistance to more than 470,000 refugees (approximately half of the over 930,000 served by UNRWA throughout the distribution cycle April-June 2016). In addition, RSSP distributed non-food items such as mattresses, gas stoves, or blankets, to 805 persons. Through its Social Intervention Units (SIC) RSSP detected and recorded 45 new social intervention cases and referred 150 other cases to service providers inside and outside of UNRWA to receive assistance. The SCU distributed 141 gas cylinders and 282 gallons of shampoo to poor families, and provided one family with a livelihood opportunity through a “sheep-raising” project. Further, the RSSP Disability Programme, in cooperation with local non-government organizations, provided 84 persons with disabilities with assistive devices. Through its hundreds of front line personnel, RSSP also plays a crucial role in UNRWA’s accountability to and participation of beneficiaries via collecting and responding to feedback and suggestions on its services, from Palestine refugees in Gaza.
     
  • One of many UNRWA interventions to help stimulate the crippled Gaza economy and encourage local entrepreneurs is the implementation of the Agency’s microfinance activities. In May 2016, the UNRWA Microfinance Department (MD) in Gaza disbursed 428 loans worth US$ 606,300 to small business owners to help them maintain or grow a business and make a living. Since 1991, the MD has issued 114,272 loans worth almost US$ 148 million; approximately 43 per cent of the benefiting business owners are female and 13 per cent are 24 years old or younger. MD also provides fresh graduates, university students and professionals with different technical training, some of which focus on "Job Hunting", "Project Management" and "Gender Awareness". In May, the MD conducted five training courses in Gaza, and since 1995 it has facilitated over 1,100 training courses, reaching over 25,000 participants.
     
  • Under the hashtag #WeAreHere, UN Women is highlighting the struggle and unsung work of Arab women across the Middle East, showcasing the role of women in conflict and peacekeeping in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and Libya. In the feature from Palestine, women describe the hardship of living under occupation and under a blockade in Gaza. They also mention how a male-dominated society can treat them as second class citizens. Violence against women is often the result of an interplay of political, socio-economic and cultural factors and behaviour systems, according to the Palestinian Authority’s National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women 2011-2019. In Gaza, violence against women has also to be set in the context of the blockade and associated isolation. In addition, since 2007 the Gaza population was subjected to three rounds of armed military violence. Repeated cycles of armed violence interrupt coping strategies due to displacement and unsuitable living conditions, according to OCHA. As the primary caregivers in Gaza, women are particularly vulnerable as they are faced with acute challenges in coping with the large number of families with members killed or injured, and the long-term impact of damaged infrastructure. In addition, displacement, destruction, slow reconstruction and lack of space lead to high pressure on existing infrastructure, overcrowding and, in many cases, to social tensions due to even higher than usual levels of socio-economic distress, frustration and anger, as also confirmed in the Gaza 2020 report. To help mitigate the impact of these circumstances, the UNRWA Gender Initiative in Gaza supports and works to empower women through various projects, including its empowerment programme for female-heads of households, and the social and recreational spaces project that provides women and girls with safe spaces where they can socialize and access recreational and social activities, to promote women’s rights to equal participation in public life. 
     
  • The Muslim holy month of Ramadan commenced on 6 June. Whilst many other Muslims around the world are able to break their fasting with a festive meal together with their families and friends, for countless families in Gaza and Syria their daily struggle to provide enough for their children and families knows no end or break. UNRWA is currently implementing a Ramadan fundraising campaign for Palestine refugees in Gaza and Syria. In these two fields of operations, many families, including children remain without food; Close to a million Palestine refugees in Gaza and over 430,000 in Syria, live in utter poverty and are in need of assistance. So far the campaign has raised funding to provide enough food for approximately 783 families during one month.
     
  • 35 UNRWA infrastructure projects worth US$ 64.3 million, including two components of an infrastructure project implemented in all camps in the Gaza Strip, are currently under implementation. At present, the total value of UNRWA projects approved by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) is US$ 232.3 million. In May, the Agency completed five infrastructure projects. In Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, UNRWA completed a school building that will be attended by 1,584 school children in two shifts. In Jabalia, northern Gaza, the development of a sewage, drainage and water system was completed. The works will inter alia reduce storm water flooding, mitigate the spread of mosquitoes by reducing their breeding grounds in stagnant water and contribute to collecting water for agriculture and recharging of the aquifer. In addition, two emergency preparedness projects and one small infrastructure project of less than US$ 10,000 in value were also completed. For more information on UNRWA’s construction activities in Gaza, please consult the attached May 2016 UNRWA Construction Update.

 

The UNRWA shelter update

This week:

  • UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 1.59 million in funding available for transitional shelter cash assistance (US$ 332,975), reconstruction (US$ 403,934) and repair works (US$ 853,764). The funds will reach a total of 748 refugee families across the Gaza Strip; they will access their assistance this week.

Gaza situation report 148fs

Overview of assistance disbursed

As of 9 June 2016:

  • The UNRWA shelter assessment confirmed 142,071 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. 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$ 184.3 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the 2014 summer conflict.


Completed and ongoing payments

As of 9 June 2016:

  • UNRWA has completed the payments to over 67,000 refugee families for minor repair works, to 13 families for major repair works, for 2,995 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, and to 127 families for reconstruction.
  • Payment transfers for over 11,740 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for 648families 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 instalments entailed further eligibility checks through which over 9,900 families have received the relevant rental subsidy payments during the period from January to December 2015. Approximately 8,000 families have received the first tranche of rental subsidy payments for 2016.
     

Funding gaps and needs – repair works

For repairs of damages of all categories (minor, major and severe), the principal barrier to completing the outstanding repairs is funding. If current conditions remain, including adequate amounts of building material entering Gaza, UNRWA estimates that repairs could be completed within six months from receipt of sufficient funding.

As of 9 June 2016:

  • Over 60,206 families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 68 million).
  • 3,192 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 28.7 million),
  • 1,093 families have not received payments to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes (total estimate costs: US$ 9.8 million).
  • Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of approximately 56,900 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments (first and second tranche payments) to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
     

Funding gaps and needs – reconstruction

UNRWA has secured funding to reconstruct 2,000 totally destroyed homes. Funding is currently not the biggest barrier to reconstruct homes, rather it is the complex documentation requirements  related to proving title to land, obtaining building and municipal permits and finalising building design coupled with UNRWA vulnerability targeting. For all reconstruction, UNRWA prioritises families based on poverty status (an excellent indicator for vulnerability in this context) and larger families, unlike other reconstruction actors in Gaza.  In order to mitigate this barrier, UNRWA outreach engineers assist eligible families in gathering relevant documentation. With the increase in reconstruction momentum anticipated in the coming months, funding will become a key factor again in the near to medium-term future.
 

As of 9 June 2016:

  • 6,625 refugee families have not received any payments to start repairing their totally destroyed homes
  • The total costs of reconstructing their homes amounts to approximately US$ 298.1 million
     

Funding gaps and needs – rental subsidy payments

As of 9 June 2016:

  • Approximately 8,000 refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict have not received transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for the second quarter in in 2016.
  • 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.

 

Blockade on Gaza

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Gaza situation report 148In June 2016 the blockade on Gaza has entered its tenth year. The United Nations has repeatedly highlighted the illegality of the blockade as a form of collective punishment under international humanitarian law and called for the lifting of the blockade, which continues to hamper freedom of movement of persons and goods negatively impacting the enjoyment of a range of rights, including sufficient and safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, food security and life-saving treatment including health care. The Government of Israel must lift the blockade, and remove all obstacles to economic development and the enjoyment of human rights by the population of Gaza, including through the opening of available crossings and allowing movement of goods and persons, while bearing in mind Israel's legitimate security concerns.

 

General

Operational environment: Protests took place during the reporting week, predominately to demand the payment of salaries from the Palestinian Authority or in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Demonstrations also took place to demand housing or cash assistance from UNRWA.

On 7 June, a dispute reportedly took place between two families in Gaza city area and they reportedly used fire guns. No injuries were reported. The police reportedly intervened and made several arrests.

On 7 June, the roof of an old house in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, reportedly collapsed, resulting in three injuries.

On 8 June, a Palestinian was reportedly arrested at Erez crossing while he was crossing into Israel for commercial purposes.

On 8 June, three children in Beach camp, in western Gaza city, reportedly used a home-made plastic pipe bomb as fireworks; the bomb reportedly exploded and the three children were injured. 

On 10 June a dispute reportedly erupted between two families in Nuseirat camp, central Gaza; they reportedly used fire guns and one person was injured. The police reportedly intervened and made several arrests.

On 10 June a fire reportedly broke out inside a house in Khan Younis, central Gaza; the Civil Defense reportedly put the fire out and no injuries were reported.

On 12 June, a dispute reportedly took place between two families in Gaza city area; the families reportedly used edged weapons and three injuries were reported. The police intervened and made several arrests.
 

UNRWA response

Relying on assistance to make ends meet: The daily resilience of Palestine refugee families in Gaza as their struggles know no break, even during Ramadan
Mohammad Mahmoud Abu Harb and his family sitting on the floor of the only room in their make-shift shelter in Beach camp, western Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Hussein Jaber
Mohammad Mahmoud Abu Harb and his family sitting on the floor of the only room in their make-shift shelter in Beach camp, western Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Hussein Jaber

Hidden within the narrow alleys of the impoverished Beach refugee camp in western Gaza city, one finds Mohammad Abu Harb’s small house where he lives together with his pregnant wife Heba and their five children. The family’s home, originally a store, is one of the many make-shift constructions in which poor Palestine refugees are seeking shelter; it has no windows and consists only of a small living room – which also serves as bedroom for the whole family – a toilet and a corridor with a gas stove, serving as a kitchen.

Mohammad’s family is categorised by UNRWA as Abject Poor (those households living below US$ 1.5 per capita per day) and has received the Agency’s quarterly food assistance for the past 15 years.

“We completely rely on UNWRA and its food aid, yet despite this I am still not able to provide enough to cover all needs of my family,” Mohammad explained. “Before the blockade commenced in 2007, I worked as labourer in Gaza and I was at least able to have a modest stable income and contribute somewhat enough to the household,” he added.

The blockade on Gaza entered its tenth year in June 2016. The related severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods have crippled the enclave’s once trade-oriented economy and pushed a large part of the population into poverty and misery, aggravated by recurrently conflicts, political uncertainty and dilapidated public infrastructure.

Today, over 80 per cent of the population in Gaza relies on humanitarian assistance to be able to cover their basic needs, such as food, but also basic education, basic health care or shelter. Since the year 2000 the number of persons depending on UNRWA food assistance has steadily augmented: while in 2000 the Agency provided 80,000 persons with food aid, this number amounts to over 930,000 today, an almost 12-fold increase.

Out of desperation over the lack of job opportunities, Mohammad sometimes sets up a small stall in front of schools in Beach camp, trying to sell snacks to students – yet the income generated through this is far from enough and he regularly depends on neighbours and friends to be able to pay the rent for his make-shift shelter. Despite the poor conditions of his shelter, the rent is far from cheap: access restrictions combined with a fast growing population, the lack of planning regulations and displacement due to recurrent conflicts, have led to severe overcrowding; this lack of space has contributed to rising rental rates across Gaza.

All Mohammad wishes is that one day they will be able to break out of this vicious cycle of poverty. He and his wife Heba do not consider themselves very educated, but they know the importance of education for their children. Mohammad’s wife is currently taking literacy classes in a nearby Community-Based Organisation, not only to increase her chances to find a job, but also “because she wants to be able to support our children with their homework; sometimes we try to hire a special teacher to give private lessons to our children as they struggle in school, yet the money is simply not enough to do this regularly,” Mohammad explained. Mohammad and his wife do what they can to better their situation and provide their children with a brighter future:

“I want my children to finish their basic education and pursue further studies; this is the only way for a better future. I want them to have a different, better, life than we do,” he said.

 

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. In one such incident on 8 June three Palestinians were arrested. No injuries were reported but the boats sustained damage.

On 10 June, approximately 30 civilians including youth, held a protest near the perimeter fence east of Gaza city to express their eagerness to defend Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. During the protest some participants approached the perimeter fence and reportedly threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with tear gas and fire. No injuries were reported.

On 10 June Hamas militants reportedly fired a barrage of test rockets from Khan Younis, southern Gaza, towards the sea. No injuries were reported.

On 11 June militants reportedly fired two rockets from northern Gaza towards Israel. The rockets reportedly exploded at the launching site, no injuries were reported. On the same day militants reportedly fired one rocket from Bureij, central Gaza, towards Israel. The rocket reportedly dropped short and landed inside Gaza area. No injuries were reported. On 11 June militants also reportedly fired six test rockets from Khan Younis, southern Gaza, towards the sea. No injuries were reported.

On 12 June militants reportedly fired one rocket from northern Gaza towards Israel. The rocket reportedly exploded at the launching site. No injuries 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$ 74 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. More information can be found here:

 

Crossings

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 remained closed during the reporting week.
  • Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. This week it was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 7 to 9 June and on 13 and 14 June. On 10 June it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 11 and also on 12 June.
  • 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 7 to 9 June and on 13 and 14 June. It was closed on 10, 11 and 12 June.

7 June – 14 June 2016 | issue 148