Gaza situation report 168

03 November 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo

25 October – 1 November | Issue 168


  • At the end of October 2016, the UNRWA Gender Initiative Programme (GIP) organized an ‘open day on micro-credit institutions in Gaza city and their loans policies’. The open day was part of the “Empowerment Programme for Female Heads of Households (FHHs) project” which is implemented in partnership with the East Gaza for Family Development organization through 15 Community-Based Organizations (CBOs). Approximately 200 FHHs and representatives from local organizations attended the event which aimed at acquainting participants with local microcredit organizations, including information on available loans for small businesses. During the open day participants shared success stories about their small scale businesses with the audience. Other activities included a panel discussion on microcredit organisations and loan policies, the showcasing of electronic marketing tools, as well as a fashion show and a small exhibition of embroidery products. In total, the five-month project provided 352 FHHs with targeted training (18 sessions in total) 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. The project targeted women who are widowed, divorced, single, separated, women who have a husband that is unable to provide for the family due to a disability or health condition or single women who are responsible to provide for their own families.
  • The UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) contributes to reconstruction and recovery in Gaza through contracted infrastructure projects that address some of the most pressing social infrastructure, environmental health, housing and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs of Gaza. In October, ICIP completed the construction of phase two of a sewerage, drainage and water supply systems project as well as the construction of a solid waste collection and transfer station in Khan Younis camp, southern Gaza. The programme also finished the reconstruction of a school building in Deir El Balah, central Gaza, as well as 50 generator rooms and 100 shower units across schools in Gaza as part of UNRWA’s emergency preparedness activities.
  • The UNRWA Department of Legal Affairs organized the second annual International Law training course in Amman, including participants from all UNRWA fields of operation. The course lasted for three days and included lectures, discussions and practical exercises on the UNRWA legal framework, UN privileges and immunities, principles of and UN instruments on humanitarian assistance, international refugee law and Palestine refugees, international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as the international law status of the UNRWA five fields and the Agency’s responses to international law violations in each field. The training aimed at outlining the international law context and how it frames UNRWA policies, decision-making and programming as well as enabling participants to use international law in developing responses arising through their work, including messaging and calls for accountability.
  • Palestine refugees in Gaza continue to experience high levels of stress and distresses as a result of the 2014 conflict and the economic, social and psychological impacts of the blockade. A recent survey conducted by UNRWA found that 55 per cent of sampled patients attending UNRWA health centres demonstrated poor psychosocial well-being, with 70 per cent being identified as potentially depressed. Among Palestine refugee children, UNRWA estimates that a minimum of 30 per cent require some form of structured psychosocial intervention. Their most common symptoms are: nightmares, eating disorders, intense fear, bed wetting. In UNRWA schools, counsellors help ensure that the children of Gaza are equipped with the life skills to succeed in life, working closely with teachers to reinforce problem-solving, interpersonal relationships, support for their peers, respect and tolerance for others, and self-care and stress management. To learn more about the CMHP, click here. 

Shelter Update

UNRWA is paying approximately US$ 4.5 million for the third quarter of rental subsidy payments, covering the period from July to September 2016. The funds will reach almost 6,500 refugee families across Gaza. The Agency was able to pay the third quarter transitional shelter cash assistance to all eligible refugee families.

UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 1.46 million for reconstruction (~US$ 1 million) and severe repair works (~US$ 464,200). The funds reached a total of 299 refugee families across Gaza; they were able to access their assistance this week.

Overview of assistance disbursed 

As of 25 October 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$ 213.7 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 25 October 2016:

  • UNRWA has completed the payments to 515 families for reconstruction, to over 67,170 refugee families for minor repair works, to 4,032 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, and to 14 families for major repair works.
  • Payment transfers for over 820 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters and for over 10,870 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters are ongoing.
  • All approximately 8,500 eligible families have received the first tranche of rental subsidy payments for 2016, and all approximately 8,000 eligible families received the second quarter payment. All approximately 65,000 still displaced refugee families received the third quarter of transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) from UNRWA. In 2015, UNRWA paid TSCA to approximately 9,000 eligible refugee families and from September to December 2014 13,250 families received rental subsidy payments.
Funding gaps and needs – reconstruction

UNRWA has secured funding to reconstruct 1,900 totally destroyed homes. Residential reconstruction has been delayed due to initial delays in agreeing a formula to import construction materials under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, complex documentation requirements related to proving title to land, obtaining building and municipal permit, as well as funding shortages in the longer term. 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.  In order to mitigate the barriers these families face in particular, UNRWA outreach engineers assist eligible families in gathering relevant documentation.

As of 25 October 2016:

  • Payments to over 6,050 refugee families to start repairing their totally destroyed homes are outstanding.
  • The total costs of reconstructing their homes amounts to approximately US$ 272.5 million.
Funding gaps and needs – rental subsidy payments 

As of 25 October 2016:

  • Approximately 6,500 eligible refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict are waiting to receive transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for the fourth quarter 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.
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 25 October 2016:

  • Over 60,040 families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 67.8 million).
  • 3,195 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 28.7 million).
  • Payments to 916 families to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes are outstanding (total estimate costs: US$ 8.2million). 
  • 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

Operational Environment

During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.

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 teargas. Three persons were injured.

Militants fired two test rockets towards the sea. Eighteen Israeli bulldozers and three tanks entered approximately 150 metres into Gaza to conduct clearing and excavation operations on various different occasions. They withdrew on the same day.

A Palestinian merchant was arrested by Israeli forces at Erez crossing. A 15-year old Palestinian male was seriously injured and admitted to the hospital after being hit by a stray bullet from an unknown source while he was on the rooftop of his house in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

UNRWA Response

The UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme’s work in schools: Addressing problems, overcoming fears, strengthening resilience
35-year-old school counsellor Rola Al Hindi during a reading activity about tolerance in Al Amal Preparatory Girls School in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj
35-year-old school counsellor Rola Al Hindi during a reading activity about tolerance in Al Amal Preparatory Girls School in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj

The summer 2014 hostilities had a devastating psychosocial impact on individuals and communities in Gaza, adding to the effect already felt from almost ten years of blockade and recurrent conflict. The shock of losing a home and family members and returning to neighbourhoods to find them destroyed can contribute to eroding any sense of certainty and hope in the future. The unprecedented human, social and physical devastation during the 2014 conflict had a particular impact on children and many are still in need of psycho-social support. According to the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP), children exposed to violence often express a loss of trust in others. Other common symptoms are eating disorders, nightmares or intense fear.

35-year-old Rola Al Hindi has been working as counsellor in Al Amal Preparatory Girls school in southern Gaza for over elven years. “When I think about how many children I helped face their fears, and to learn how to deal with them, I feel proud,” Rola said.

CMHP counsellors play a critical role in supporting Palestine refugees of all ages. The CMHP currently maintains a network of almost 280 counsellors and 80 psychosocial facilitators in UNRWA schools supported by a team of supervisors and assistant supervisors, as well as a Senior Mental Health Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) Specialist. The programme also employs 23 counsellors and 5 legal advisors at health centres across Gaza. They collectively support children and adults not only through individual and group counselling, but targeted interventions aimed at enhancing psychosocial resiliency and well-being.

“I use many different tools such as games, drawing, singing, drama or videos to help students manage their stress and memories. I really love to work in schools as here I feel I can really reach the children; I also work closely together with their parents as many of the students’ problems can only be addressed by involving the parents,”  Rola commented.

“I really like the school counselling activities; they even make me like school better. I think because of them, I am now braver,” explained 12-year old Raghda Al Qedra, one of the students in Al Amal school.

Over the past years, the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) has moved towards the Mental Health Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) model to provide a more holistic and integrated approach that extends beyond counselling. Counsellors help ensure that the children of Gaza are equipped with the life skills to succeed in life, working closely with teachers to reinforce problem-solving, interpersonal relationships, support for their peers, respect and tolerance for others, and self-care and stress management. In UNRWA health centres, CMHP psychosocial and legal counsellors provide comprehensive support to mainly women, many of whom have experienced Gender-Base Violence (GBV), through individual counselling, group support, and relevant legal advice.

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 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. Read more about 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 travellers, 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 25 to 27 October and 30 October to 1 November (on 31 October it was open for half a day only). On 28 October it was open for pedestrians only. On 29 October it was closed.
  • 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 25 to 27 October and 30 October to 1 November. It was closed on 28 and 29 October.