Gaza situation report 172

02 December 2016
Mr. Adrian Chadwick, OBE, Regional Director Middle East and North Africa at the British Council, visiting the UNRWA Asma Elementary Co-ed A School in Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi al-Sarraj

22 November – 29 November | Issue 172


  • 25 November marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of the annual 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign. Led by UN Women, this campaign will continue until 10 December, Human Rights Day. The campaign calls upon activists, governments and United Nations partners to mobilize people and highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls. UNRWA is joining more than 5,000 UN Agencies, other organizations, governments and countless individuals to raise awareness on gender-based violence. The 2016 theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All” speaks significantly to UNRWA’s work in Gaza. During the 16 days, through its Relief and Social Services and Education programmes, as well as the Gender Initiative and Communications department, UNRWA is providing a variety of activities, ranging from awareness sessions and training of human rights teachers and students on early marriage, adolescent health, GBV and women’s rights, to radio sessions and open discussion forums on causes and consequences of GBV in Community-Based Organizations and Women Programme Centres across the Gaza Strip. Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, was interviewed on both Alwan Radio and Alwan TV on UNRWA’s activities during the 16 days campaign, but also the Agency’s work throughout the year to end gender-based violence. Ending GBV is a top priority for achieving the UN’s founding mission of peace, development and human rights. The newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also recognizes the importance of eliminating violence against women, with related targets across several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The post-conflict Gaza economy has been extremely volatile with periods of relative growth alternating with periods of recession. Yet UNRWA internal analysis indicates that growth was not the result of improved productive capacity but rather linked to rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, which heavily depends on exogenous factors such as import of raw materials and donor aid inflows. Sustainable recovery will only be possible if productive and tradable sectors are enabled to grow through unimpeded movement of goods in and out of Gaza. In recent months, however, Israel has further tightened the movement of people and goods which contributed to the stifling of private sector activity and further damaged the overall economy: according to the Israeli organization Gisha, increasing numbers of travel permits for businesspersons have been rejected. Since March 1,545 traders had their permits revoked or not renewed (out of 3,200-3,500 in total), and permits for senior businesspersons were also reduced from 450 to 300. Overall, 5,066 people entered Israel through Erez crossing in October, a 43 per cent decline compared to the monthly average for the first half of 2016 (back in 2000, more than 20,000 Palestinians crossed Erez daily). In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the import of raw material and equipment needed for industrial production has been further impeded. Infrastructure projects, including those implemented by UNRWA, as well as private sector activities face significant disruptions due to major delays in the approval of ‘dual use’ items. In addition, the over 5,000 companies normally authorized to import goods into Gaza have been reduced by about 200. OCHA data also shows a reduction in truckloads exported or transferred to the West Bank. 114 truckloads of goods exited Gaza in October, a 30 per cent decrease compared to the 2016 monthly average. 160 truckloads exited Gaza every month in 2016 on average, which is already 88 per cent less than in 2001. Only 441 truckloads exited Gaza in quarter three of 2016, the lowest level in the last twelve months.
  • During the reporting week, UNRWA commenced the distribution of tarpaulin and nylon sheets as part of its emergency preparedness this winter. Whilst the needs assessment is ongoing, as of 28 November the UNRWA logistics team has arranged the distribution of one tarpaulin sheet and a 20 square metres nylon sheet per family to 194 refugee families in Tuffah, eastern Gaza. These supplies will help them cope with the harsh winter conditions. The UNRWA logistics team organizes the distribution of NFIs in partnership with the UNRWA Chief of Area Offices that assess and advise on each area’s needs. Every year the agency distributes Non-Food Items (NFIs) such as tarpaulin, blankets, mattresses, heaters and other items for displaced and other vulnerable Palestine refugees as part of the Agency’s winterization campaign. To support the additional activity in UNRWA warehouses, UNRWA is going to hire 50 labourers and distributors in the coming weeks for short-term employment opportunities primarily through its Job Creation Programme.
  • On 22 November  Mr. Adrian Chadwick, the British Council Regional Director in Middle East and Africa, accompanied by Mr. Brendan McSharry, Director of the British Council in Palestine, Mr. Suhail Tarazi, the British Council program manager in Gaza and Mr. Tawfiq Al-Hourani, UNRWA Deputy Chief Field Education Programme, visited the UNRWA Asma Elementary Co-ed School in Gaza City. The visit started with a presentation by the school principal about the activities organized by the school which earned it the International School Award (ISA) by the British Council. In total 21 UNRWA schools have been granted this accreditation. During the visit students performed songs, drama, stories and shadow theatre in English. After the school visit, the delegation met Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, to discuss strengthening the relations between the two organizations, expanding cooperation and exploring new ideas in the interest of UNRWA students. In the addition, 40 UNRWA English teachers are being trained in Ramallah on storytelling through the British Council Kids Read project.
  • The First Palestine Resilience Conference (PRC) 2016, was held on 24 and 25 November in Amman, Jordan. Organized jointly by the Government of Palestine and the United Nations Development Programme/Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP), the Conference provided a space where practitioners, donors, government actors, non-government actors and the private sector meet to think-plan-deliver on how to influence resilience-based programming across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The First Palestine Resilience Conference (PRC) 2016 addressed key questions and concerns of various stakeholders including whether there is another way to more effectively deliver humanitarian and development interventions that result in real on the ground change and empower individuals, communities, and institutions to become less vulnerable. Mr. Robert Piper, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, delivered his remarks on behalf of the United Nations team in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • Over the last three months the UNRWA Health Programme (HP) has been organizing awareness raising activities with pregnant refugee women including consultations, the distribution of brochures and information sessions. The activities aim to explain the importance of physiotherapy before and after delivery and to demonstrate beneficial exercises for pregnant women. In October around 7,605 women also participated in clinical breast cancer examinations at UNRWA Health Centres; 522 cases were referred to the medical centres for a mammogram and 2 cases were confirmed with breast cancer. Furthermore, the HP provided almost 39,562 consultations and specialist services to beneficiaries during October. The total number of dental consultations stood at 45,874, and health staff provided 19,018 physiotherapy patients with treatment sessions. The HP also conducted home visits and mobile phone consultations for refugees unable to access health centres physically, such as antenatal or postnatal consultations and consultations on non-communicable diseases. In October, 545 home visits and 3,310 mobile consultations were conducted. UNRWA provides services to monitor and control communicable diseases such as diarrhea, meningitis or mumps.

The UNRWA Shelter Update

Overview of assistance disbursed (as of 21 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$ 224 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 21 November 2016)
  • UNRWA has completed the payments to almost 600 families for reconstruction, to over 67,000 refugee families for minor repair works, to 4,110 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, and to 16 families for major repair works.
  • Payment transfers for over 680 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters and for almost 10,900 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 21 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 6,120 refugee families to start repairing their totally destroyed homes are outstanding.
  • The total costs of reconstructing their homes amounts to approximately US$ 275.5 million.
Funding gaps and needs – rental subsidy payments (as of 21 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 21 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).
  • 3,195 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 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. One person was injured. Various other protests were held during the week, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to demand an end to violence against women.

Negotiations continue with the Unions on the salary survey results. During the period under review, an agreement was reached between the Commissioner-General and the Unions in oPt to have a fact finding mission come to review the concerns and issues raised in the salary survey results. The Unions have therefore suspended any further industrial action for a period of ten days.

Militants fired a test rocket towards the sea.

During the reporting period five fires broke out, in an electricity shop in Gaza City, at an agricultural farm in Shujaiya east of Gaza, in a residential house in Jabalia northern Gaza, in Nuseirat south of Gaza and in Khan Younis, south of Gaza. No persons were injured. In total two persons were killed and one was injured in two separate family disputes in Nuseirat, south of Gaza, and in Gaza City. Several arrests were made. Two Palestinian men entered into Israel through the perimeter fence east of Bureij and were arrested by Israeli forces.

UNRWA Response

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign: Early marriage is a violation of children’s rights

From left to right, Tagreed Al-Omoor, Mariam Shaqoura, Wisam Jouda, and Manal Abu Muhaisen, in first radio session with Alwan radio station as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
From left to right, Tagreed Al-Omoor, Mariam Shaqoura, Wisam Jouda, and Manal Abu Muhaisen, in first radio session with Alwan radio station as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

25 November marked the beginning of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Campaign. UNRWA has joined more than 5,000 UN agencies, organizations, governments and countless individuals to raise awareness on violence against women.

As part of a series of activities during these 16 days, the UNRWA communications with communities (CwC) team, part of UNRWA Gaza Field Communication Office, worked together with the local radio station Alwan on a first radio session on the topic of early marriage.

“We should all stand against early marriage; it has negative health, social and psychological impact on girls. Early marriage can be an underlying factor associated with anaemia and osteoporosis,” stated Mariam Shaqoura, Head of a community-based women’s health centre in Jabalia.

This radio session on early marriage is one of four radio sessions which will be broadcast during the 16 days campaign. Other topics include gender-based violence (GBV), women’s rights and women’s economic empowerment.

“Early marriage robs a girl of her right to education and health. It’s a clear violation of the child’s rights,” mentioned Manal Abu-Muhaisen, Legal Adviser at the UNRWA Bureij Health Centre.

In addition to inviting experts to discuss, each session presents a story of a strong woman: women who faced early marriage, women who survived GBV, women head of households and women entrepreneurs.

“The purpose of inviting these women is to show others that women can learn from each other. The success story is the most impactful for people. Our target group is not only women and girls; we also target boys and men. Radio is an important communication tool to reach a wide range of people in the community,” said Tagreed Al-Omoor, the radio programme interviewer.

The annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a top priority for achieving the UNs founding mission of peace, development and Human Rights.  It is as important a goal for men and boys as it is for women and girls. The 2016 theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All” speaks significantly to UNRWA work in Gaza. At the same time it provides an opportunity to look at how the Agency can offer tools and information to the refugee community on this important issue in a better way in the future.

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 on 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 22 November for 31 journalists to exit Gaza and on 26 November for 31 journalists to enter Gaza. It was closed from 23 to 25 and from 27 to 29 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 22 to 24 November and 27 to 29 November. On 25 November it was open for pedestrians only. On 26 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 22 to 24 November and from 27 to 29 November. It was closed on 25 and 26 November.