15 November – 22 November 2016 | issue 171
“The destruction of our home also led to many other difficulties; for example the home we are able to rent with UNRWA support was far away from our original neighbourhood and therefore the children needed much more time to walk to their schools – as we cannot afford paying transport for them. Because we had to move away from our neighbourhood, we also lost our social network and our friends.”
Etimad Al-Ejla, Palestine refugee. Read more here.
A comprehensive shelter update will be provided in the next situation report.
Shukri Ali is painting the door of his house which was totally destroyed during the 2014 conflict and was recently reconstructed with the help of UNRWA in Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj
Shukri Ali is a Palestine refugee who was born and lived his whole life in Shujjaiya, a neighbourhood in eastern Gaza city heavily affected during the 2014 conflict. He and his family had to flee their home during the hostilities. When they returned after the ceasefire in August 2016, they found their house totally destroyed and neighbourhood severely damaged. For two years, the family lived the life of the internally displaced in Gaza, moving from one over-crowded rented home to another. The rent they were only able to pay due to UNRWA’s support in form of transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA); not much more than a few weeks ago, the family finally completed the reconstruction of their house – also with payments from UNRWA – and moved back to their old, still largely damaged neighbourhood.
Shukri said, “I used to work as a labourer, but since the blockade was imposed [on Gaza], I can barely find work. If UNRWA did not support us through rental subsidies, we would not have known where to go and what to do. Now we are back home, and I feel just relieved. But I also see and can barely bear the sadness in the eyes of many of my relatives who are still waiting to rebuild and reconstruct their houses, which they lost in the conflict.”
Over two years after the open-ended ceasefire commenced on 26 August 2014, most people and institutions in the coastal enclave are still struggling to cope with their immense losses, according to the Gaza: Two Years After report by the UN Country Team in the State of Palestine. Approximately 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged during the conflict, affecting over 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza. Another 153,000 homes sustained damage but were categorized as inhabitable – meaning that families continued to live in their homes with broken windows, doors or walls. Around 70 per cent of the affected persons are Palestine refugees: a total of 142,071 Palestine refugee homes were impacted in the hostilities; 9,117 were totally destroyed and 5,417 suffered severe damage.
Etimad Al Ejla, Shukri’s wife, could not hide her smile when she explained how she felt when she could finally move back to her old, now newly reconstructed home. The two-year long displacement had increased her feelings of social and economic insecurity, for example by disrupting her former communal support network. In addition, every month, Etimad’s said, she was worried that suddenly the family could not pay the rent anymore and would end up in the street. With the reconstructed house, these fears were exchanged for feelings of some stability and security in the very unstable, insecure Gaza Strip.
As of beginning of November, UNRWA distributed over US$ 222.4 million to families whose homes were damaged or destroyed. 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 houses.
All eligible refugee families received the third quarter 2016 TSCA payments. Yet UNRWA is in critical need of US$ 5.5 million to provide families with the final payment for this year. Rental subsidy payments are a pivotal coping mechanism for those who are still displaced. Without this assistance, families risk spending the coming winter in damaged, half-repaired homes or will have to go deeply into debt to try and pay rent by themselves.
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. 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 travellers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.