Gaza situation report 170

18 November 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo

8 November – 15 November | Issue 170


  • On 14 and 15 November, the UNRWA Advisory Commission (AdCom) met in Amman, Jordan for its biannual meeting, to discuss key challenges and opportunities in the Agency’s five fields of operation. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl addressed the AdCom, stating: “the world cannot afford to be fatigued. It cannot afford to look the other way. Because, at the very time as officials and citizens around the world will today say that Palestine refugees are not on the top of their agenda, they will add that the unresolved injustice done to Palestine refugees remains at the heart of instability in the Middle-East and beyond,” adding that the absence of a political horizon is draining Palestine refugees of their resolve and creativity and a young generation is losing faith in the value of politics, compromise and international diplomacy. Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, briefed the Commission on the current operational context in the Gaza Strip where recurrent conflict, restrictions related to almost ten years of blockade, political uncertainty, dilapidated public infrastructure and a devastated economy continue to form the backdrop of life for 1.8 million people, 1.3 of them Palestine refugees. He updated on the shelter repair and reconstruction programme, the Graduate Training Programme part of the Job Creation Programme, the new developments in the work of the Community Mental Health Programme in Gaza and Communications with Communities (CwC). Consisting of five members when it was first created, today the AdCom is made up of 27 Members and three Observers. It is currently being chaired by Switzerland and Egypt. It meets twice a year, usually in May/June and November, to advise and assist the Commissioner-General in carrying out the UNRWA mandate.
  • Last week, Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, met with leaders of Popular Refugee Committees (PRC) from the entire Gaza Strip. It was an occasion for UNRWA to highlight its operations, achievements and challenges and hear concerns from the PRCs. This fruitful meeting focused particularly on how UNRWA and the PRCs can work together as partners for the benefit of the refugees in Gaza. As part of its outreach to the Palestine refugee community in Gaza, the Front Office and the Chiefs of the Area Offices hold quarterly meetings with community representatives in all five governorates of Gaza – North, Gaza, Middle Area, Khan Younis and Rafah. In 2010, UNRWA in Gaza set up its Chief Area Offices (CAO) to further empower its front line staff and maintain closer community linkages. The Chiefs of Area Offices have an UNRWA representative function at the area level and lead an area management team (AMT) in close collaboration with the Gaza Field Office.
  • A delegation including European Union (EU) Heads of Mission from 19 member countries of the EU as well as Mr. Ralph Tarraf, European Union Representative and Ms. Natalina Cea, Head of Mission for EU Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point (EUBAM Rafah), visited Gaza on 8 November. The goal of the visit was to get a firsthand impression of the situation in Gaza, including UNRWA programmes and humanitarian response. The delegation visited Beit Hanoun Elementary Co-ed A School in northern Gaza, where they were given an overview of UNRWA Gaza by Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, and attended briefings on UNRWA education and psychosocial services to children. They also visited a refugee family whose house is being reconstructed and received a briefing on the Agency’s reconstruction activities.
  • Dr. Beatrice Bressan, Executive Director at GGateway, discussed during an interview with Dukascopy TV the challenges that Information Communications Technology (ICT) graduates face in finding employment in Gaza and how GGateway helps fill the gap. GGateway is an ICT social enterprise with a dedicated and professional team, supported by UNRWA, that encourages technology innovation and invests in young and talented Palestinians from Gaza by providing first employment opportunities and capacity building for recent graduates and creating an enabling environment for freelancers to work, exchange and learn. The enterprise seeks to accomplish this through outsourcing of its ICT services to third countries and private sector partnerships. The ICT industry is a source of hope for the Gaza economy, as it presents a rare opportunity for high-value exports to be made despite the blockade. GGateway has by now successfully handled five UNRWA projects and employed around 60 ICT recent graduates and professionals.
  • To highlight the importance of taking action against the rapid spread of diabetes and to encourage screening to detect the illness at an early stage, the UNRWA Health Programme observes World Diabetes Day , this year under the theme of “Eyes on Diabetes”. On 14 November, Health Centres across the Gaza strip participated in a closing ceremony including a variety of activities such as songs, a poem and sketches including a dialogue between a student and a doctor on how to follow a healthy lifestyle. This ceremony marks the end of an awareness raising campaign conducted by the health centres in which students from different UNRWA schools and the local community actively participated. In Gaza, high diabetes rates are a direct result of the disruption to economic and social activity which allows malnutrition and infectious diseases to co-exist with non-communicable health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Forced urbanization, over-crowding and the related psycho-social stress can aggravate these diseases. The ever-increasing cost of diabetes care is a big challenge given the Agency’s scarce resources. Data for 2015 revealed that out of the total expenditure on medicines by UNRWA, 31 per cent was spent on medicines for the treatment of NCDs.

The UNRWA Shelter Update

UNRWA was able to pay the third quarter transitional shelter cash assistance to all eligible refugee families from Gaza. This is estimated at approximately US$ 4.5 million covering the period of July to September 2016 and targets almost 6,500 Palestine refugee families in Gaza.

UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 1.6 million for reconstruction (US$ 712,516) and severe repair works (US$ 913,237). The funds will reach a total of 244 refugee families across Gaza; they were able to access their assistance this week.

Overview of assistance disbursed (as of 7 November 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$ 222.4 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 7 November 2016)
  • UNRWA has completed the payments to 555 families for reconstruction, to 67,093 refugee families for minor repair works, to 4,066 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, and to 15 families for major repair works.
  • Payment transfers for over 790 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters and for over 10,930 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 6,500 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 (as of 7 November 2016)

UNRWA has secured funding to reconstruct approximately 1,900 totally destroyed homes, all of which are currently either completed, ongoing or awaiting clearance in the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). Other actors are supporting the reconstruction of 2,100 refugee homes, but there is no funding for the remaining caseload whose homes were completely destroyed.  There are several barriers to progress on reconstruction, chief among them a lack of funding. Residential reconstruction has also been delayed. First, there were the initial delays in agreeing a formula to import construction materials under the GRM; the complex documentation requirements related to proving title to land, obtaining building and municipal permit. And now, for reconstruction to be initiated as new funding materialises, families need to be continuously cleared in the GRM, yet since May only six families supported by UNRWA have been cleared by the Government of Israel, with 300 more currently pending. Another 100 families are with the Palestinian Authority for uploading into the system. For all reconstruction, UNRWA prioritizes families based on poverty status (a primary 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.

  • 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 7 November 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 (as of 7 November 2016)

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.

  • Over 60,120 families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 67.9 million).
  • 3,196 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 817 families to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes are outstanding (total estimate costs: US$ 7.4 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.

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. Various other protests were held during the week, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

During the period under review, there were industrial actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Negotiations continue with the Unions on the salary survey results. A Technical Committee was established to help find solutions to outstanding issues regarding the survey results. In that context, the management is working with the Unions to mitigate the impact of industrial action on services to Palestine refugees.

Militants fired a test rocket towards the sea. Eight Israeli bulldozers and four tanks entered approximately 50 metres into Gaza to conduct clearing and excavation operations on various different occasions. They withdrew on the same day.

A fire broke out inside a residential house in Nuseirat, south of Gaza City, due to misuse of candles. No persons were injured. Three persons were injured after a sewage well under construction collapsed. A 35-year old Palestinian man was shot and killed in Gaza City. The police opened an investigation. One person was injured during a family dispute in Gaza City. Several arrests were made. A Palestinian man entered into Israel through the perimeter fence east of Deir El Balah and was arrested by Israeli forces.

UNRWA Response

After two years of ceasefire: Is it a human right to have a home? 
Kulthoom Baroud is baking bread together with her husband Husein in their rented home in Zaitoun area in eastern Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj
Kulthoom Baroud is baking bread together with her husband Husein in their rented home in Zaitoun area in eastern Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

Kulthoom Baroud is baking bread together with her husband Husein in their rented home in Zaitoun area in eastern Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

Husein Abu Al-Lil and Kulthoom Baroud, husband and wife, used to live in a three-story building in eastern Gaza city together with their extended family. They used to rent out the ground floor of the building for shop owners. When their home was totally destroyed during the 2014 hostilities, they did not only lose their house, but also their only source of income.

“Immediately after the ceasefire in August 2014, I returned to check on my house; but instead, I just found a pile of rubble. All the money I had saved during my whole life was lost as well, somewhere underneath the stones, burned. So we lost everything, our home and our livelihoods,” Husein remembered. “If UNRWA did not pay us rental subsidies, I would have to go deeply into debt to provide my family with a roof over their heads, and it would be much more awful.” 

Between 7 July and 26 August 2014, the Gaza Strip experienced the deadliest and most devastating round of hostilities since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967; more than two years on, most people and institutions are still struggling to cope with their immense losses. Besides the massive damage to the enclave’s infrastructure – including hospitals, water and electricity networks, and streets – some 12,500 housing units were totally destroyed and around 6,500 homes were severely damaged; over 19,000 housing units were rendered uninhabitable. Around 70 per cent of the affected persons are Palestine refugees.

As of the beginning of November, UNRWA distributed over US$ 222.4 million to families whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Almost 1,400 families are currently receiving payments for reconstruction and approximately 83,000 families for repair works. However, around 60,000 families are not receiving payments for repair works and 6,000 families are not receiving payments to start reconstructing their homes due to lack of funding.

“Is it a human right to have a home? I don’t know. But I dream every day and night to be able to reconstruct and return to our place. If UNRWA stopped the rental subsidy payments, we would probably have to go live in a tent. A rented home is nothing like your own home, but it keeps us warm and makes us feel that we are still human,” explained displaced refugee Kulthoom Baroud.

Besides payments for repair and reconstruction works, UNRWA provides displaced refugee families with quarterly rental subsidy payments. With this money they can rent an alternative home while awaiting the reconstruction and repair of their homes.

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 was open on 12 November in one direction for Palestinians returning to Gaza and on 14 November in both directions. It was closed from 8 to 11 and on 13 November.
  • 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 8 to 10 November and 13 to 14 November. On 11 November it was open for pedestrians only. On 12 November 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 8 to 10 November and from 13 to 14 November. It was closed on 11 and 12 November.