Gaza situation report 160
30 August – 6 September 2106 | issue 160
“Now my turn came to fly to the sky; a pilot came and took me with him to the plane. He switched on the generator and the engine started working. We flew high to reach the sky.” From the story “Life Journey” written by Mira Elian. Read more here.
The UN Humanitarian Country Team in the State of Palestine organized a field visit to Gaza on 30 August for donors and diplomats to raise awareness on the status of reconstruction and recovery two years after the ceasefire in August 2014, as well as on the impact of the blockade. Representatives from Canada, the European Union, Australia, the United Kingdom and Belgium participated in the visit which focused on themes such as accountability and reconstruction, agricultural land rehabilitation, the enclave’s chronic energy, health and sanitation needs, economic recovery projects and youth. The visit started with a briefing by UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, Mr. Robert Piper. Following that, the delegation visited the Al Nada residential towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, where several of the apartment blocks were rendered uninhabitable during the 2014 conflict, and other damaged apartments are currently occupied by internally displaced persons (IDPs). An UNRWA representative briefed the delegation on temporary shelter assistance. Further, the delegation visited the As Salam stadium in Gaza city where they met with the Paralympics basketball girls team. The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, also participated in the visit. A press release issued a day after the visit can be read here.
UNRWA started the training of 16 UNRWA English language teachers to facilitate the upcoming “My Voice My School” (MVMS) project. This project is a student-led educational project that links Palestine refugee youth with their peers in different European countries through video conversations and customized teaching materials. During the three-month virtual exchanges – starting in October 2016 – and in-class work, the students discuss and learn how education can be improved to help them meet their aspirations. MVMS has been implemented by UNRWA in Syria, and this year for the first time will be extended to refugee children from Lebanon and Gaza who will exchange with peers from Sweden and the Netherlands respectively. Each class will define and develop a student advocacy voice project inspired by the discussion between the European and Palestine refugee students. The MVMS project is implemented by UNRWA and Digital Explorer. Digital Explorer is a London-based community interest company. It is a pioneer in the development of innovative real-world learning programmes, where global citizenship topics are explored through teacher, pupil and expert collaboration.
In August, UNRWA completed 13 construction projects including one component of an infrastructure upgrading project implemented in camps all over Gaza. Whilst schools were opened unfortunately UNRWA did not receive COGAT approval for any of the network cables for computer labs and connecting the new EMIS system being launched Agency-wide in 2016-17 school year. UNRWA will continue to seek these materials so that educational outcomes for refugee children are achieved. Ahead of the start of the new school year on 28 August, UNRWA completed nine new school buildings which will accommodate a total of 14,317 students bringing the total number of schools constructed since the beginning of 2016 to 14. In addition, UNRWA also completed a library building, a water management project and one component of the infrastructure upgrading project implemented in camps all over Gaza. The August construction update is attached.
Several personnel from the UNRWA TV multimedia education production unit participated in a three-day training implemented by expert consultant John Tuckey focused on television (TV) programming for children and included using modules and workshops on TV formats and scripting, the basics of good drama writing and TV presenting skills. The training aimed at supporting the UNRWA TV team in its current production of 24 new multimedia episodes for its Education in Emergencies project, focusing on the core subjects of Arabic, English, Science and Mathematics. The content is relevant for Palestine refugee children in all five fields of UNRWA operations, irrespective of their national curricula. The educational elements are based on a modern TV format including classrooms, science experiments, documentaries, songs, music clips, drama, and animation; overall, the production is based on a “children are teaching children” approach, which aligns with Communication for Development (C4D) methods.
Female Heads of Households (FHH) in the Gaza Strip remain a particularly vulnerable group subject to marginalization and social stigmatization. To counter the hardship and poverty often experienced by FHHs, the UNRWA Gender Initiative (GI) is implementing the “Empowerment Programme for Female Heads of Households project,” in partnership with the East Gaza for Family Development organization through 10 Community Based Organizations (CBOs). The project provides FHHs with targeted training on self-development, financial literacy and household management with a view to better enable the participants to think strategically as decision-makers and equip them with the skills needed to manage income while also seeking innovation in resource-utilization. This week, the GI launched the second round of the project for 300 FHHs to attend 18 training sessions for a period of between four and five weeks. At the end of each project cycle, the participants are invited to attend an open day in which local microcredit organizations provide information on available loans for small-businesses. The project targets women who are widowed, divorced, single, separated or women who have a husband that is unable to provide for the family due to a disability or health condition. Participants must be aged between 25 to 55 years and have a school certificate for grade 11. The requirement of age is to have participants who are still interested in starting businesses while the requirement of schooling addresses the need for everyone to know basics of mathematics. Each training lasts between four and five weeks, including 18 sessions in total.
On 4 September, 746 new students – 560 female and 186 male – started their technical training in the two UNRWA Vocational Training Centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Technical courses include business management, computer technology, emergency nursing, telecommunications, programming and database management, food processing and executive secretarial skills. In addition, 1,211 new students started their school year in vocational training courses such as carpentry and furniture making, general electrical installations, auto electrical system, heating systems maintenance, plumbing and masonry, and plastering works. Many students enrolled in the two training centres come from the most vulnerable families in Gaza: 50 per cent of all registered students are part of the Agency’s Social Safety Net (SSN) category – meaning those households that are living below US$ 1.5 per person per day; 29 per cent are categorized as Absolute Poor (households that live below US$ 3.87 per person per day).
The UNRWA Shelter Update
A shelter update will be provided in the next Gaza weekly situation report.
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a regular basis. On one occasion Palestinian militants opened fire towards Israeli forces carrying out security works in northern Gaza, and on another occasion some gunshots fired from a military training site in northern Gaza hit Israeli forces patrolling the perimeter fence. Israeli forces fired two shells towards northern Gaza. No injuries were reported.
This week, several incidents related to attempted suicides were reported. An UNRWA beneficiary attempted to commit suicide by pouring fuel on himself in front of the UNRWA main gate as a protest to demand shelter compensation. He did not sustain injuries and personnel from the UNRWA Safety and Security Division handled the incident. Two other men attempted to commit suicide in two different incidents by trying to burn themselves in a public place in Gaza city, one of them to protest against the cut of his salary from the Palestinian Authority.
In addition, unknown persons assaulted a leader of the Fatah movement and he had to be transferred to a hospital. Also one unexploded ordinance (UXO) exploded accidentally and injured one Palestinian. Further, one Palestinian threw a homemade pipe bomb from a building in Gaza city and the device exploded in the street; no injuries were reported. One Palestinian was arrested by Israeli forces when he attempted to enter Israel through the perimeter fence. Four other Palestinians who attempted to enter Israel through the fence were arrested by Hamas-affiliated National Security Forces.
Moreover, civilians, mostly youth, continued to protest near the perimeter fence expressing their eagerness to defend Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. When some of them approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gun fire and tear gas; three injuries were reported.
On two different occasions a total of eight Israeli bulldozers and three excavators entered into Gaza areas to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
Through the creation of employment, UNRWA offers opportunities for women to play a role outside of their home
In one of the containers at the UNRWA Gaza Field Office (GFO), slightly hidden behind a bigger building, a group of women are sitting together at the end of a long working day, relaxing their feet and chatting about the day’s events. They belong to UNRWA GFO’s services team, responsible to keep the hundreds of offices in the compound clean and proper.
The women are employed through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme (JCP), and for many of them it is the first time to have a job and leave the house to go to work.
38-year old Zeenat is a mother of ten children and has been working at GFO for two months. As her husband is unemployed, through this job opportunity she became the main breadwinner in the family. “Before I started working here, I rarely left my home. Now I learned that there is another home outside the home: friends,” she commented.
Through the JCP, UNRWA provides skilled and unskilled job opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees living beneath the poverty line of US$ 3.87 per person per day; other criteria are skills and qualifications, location, age and gender.
The JCP offers a source of income, dignity, self-respect and self-reliance for Palestine refugee families; for many women in particular, it also offers a chance to be exposed to and play a role in the public space, since due to conservative cultural norms and traditions in Gaza women are usually confined to the private sphere, reports the Palestinian Ministry of Women Affairs.
“Now I feel much stronger; before I worked here, I used to say yes to everything I was asked to do. Now, I am strong, I negotiate, I learned to say ‘no’,” explained Zeenat further.
Her colleague, 33-year old Eman, added: “On my first day of work, I was surprised to see Palestinian women without hijab [head scarf]; I have never been exposed to different lifestyles. The money I earn with this job I spend on my son’s education; I want him to be educated because that is the only chance he has to break out of the cycle of poverty we live in.”
Beside the JCP, UNRWA supports the development and empowerment of women through various other programmes, initiatives and projects, particularly through the Gender Initiative which promotes equal opportunities for women through capacity-building, the provision of social and recreational spaces, and economic empowerment, among others.
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$ 96.5 million. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
Following the 2014 conflict, US$ 257 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$ 463 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.
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 from 30 August to 1 September and from 3 to 5 September. It was closed on 2 September.
- 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 30 August to 1 September and 4 to 6 September. On 2 September it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 3 September.
- 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 from 30 August to 1 September and from 4 to 6 September. It was closed on 2 and 3 September.
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