Gaza situation report 173
29 November – 6 December 2016 | Issue 173
“Education is the main tool to reduce early marriage in the community. The psychological impact of early marriage is something one can’t easily forget.”
Hayat Mahmoud, lawyer in a Women’s Programme Centre. Read more here.
- UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl attended the UNRWA pledging conference in New York on 5 December from the UNRWA Gaza Field Office through a videoconference. He was joined by Ms. Razan Al Daboos, the 15-year old head of the UNRWA central school parliament, 14-year old Mr. Ahmad Al-Mahdoun, Vice President of the central school parliament, and Ms. Rua’ Kdeih, a 12-year old student whose partially burned notebook was found after the summer 2014 hostilities containing a poem about courage and steadfastness. During his remarks the Commissioner-General stressed that the issue of Palestine refugees cannot be overshadowed and must remain a priority at this time of great uncertainty in the world. Razan also described her life in Gaza to the Member States; the blockade and the destruction caused by the wars waged in her lifetime. She asked those present to see Gazan youth not as victims but actors of change with dreams, skills and the potential to contribute to a better future. During the conference twenty UN member states have expressed their intention to pledge over US$ 60 million to support next year’s budget of UNRWA, and several more indicated their contributions would be forthcoming or are pending approval by the respective national parliaments. Donors made their pledges during a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee created by the General Assembly as the main forum to announce donor support for the Agency, which provides educational, health, relief and social services for more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.
- On Thursday 1 December, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr. Gerd Müller, and the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, visited the Hashem Elementary Boys A&B School, Gaza City, to learn more about the impact of German support to the UNRWA education programme. During the visit, Dr. Müller and Mr. Schack engaged with the schools’ students and teachers in a mathematics class. They also met with the members of the school parliament of the nearby Daraj Elementary Co-Ed C School.
- On 7 December, under this year’s global theme of ‘Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want’ the UNRWA Disability Programme, a part of the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP), in cooperation with the Coordination Committee of Rehabilitation Centres, organized a celebration in the UNRWA Gaza Field Office (GFO) to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). The celebration was attended by Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Nasser Al Khaldi, Deputy Chief of RSSP, senior UNRWA staff and representatives and students from Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRCs). The event included a variety of performances by children with disabilities, such as Dabka dance, traditional songs and sign-language performances. RSSP aims to empower Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. The Programme conducts activities through 14 Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), seven Women Programme Centres (WPCs) and seven Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRCs) for persons with disabilities. Its Social Services Division contains five programmes on youth, the elderly, orphans, women, and a disability programme.
- On 3 December, UNRWA opened the new Sa’ad Al-Abdallah Al Sabah School in Abassan, eastern Khan Younis. This school was funded by the Kuwait Fund For Arab Economic Development. The opening ceremony was attended by Mr. Bo Schack, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, and Mr. Munir Manneh, Senior External Relations & Projects Officer at the UNRWA Arab Partnership Unit, in addition to senior UNRWA staff, representatives from UNRWA school parents’ councils and leaders from the Abassan community. The new school building includes a multi-purpose room, a Special Education Special Needs room, space for health and school counsellors, a library and a computer lab. The new building is serving a total of 2,184 students. UNRWA sees education as a major investment in dignity, human development and a measure of stability for Palestine refugees who represent 40 per cent of those in a protracted refugee situation in the world. The Education Programme in Gaza is UNRWA’s largest and despite the fragile situation, lack of infrastructure and financial constraints, UNRWA runs 267 schools serving 262,000 students.
- In November, UNRWA completed three construction projects including one school building, maintenance works in one existing school and maintenance works in its Gaza Field Office. The total value of completed projects is almost US$ 1.64 million. 30 infrastructure projects worth US$ 64.45 million are under implementation. At present, the total value of UNRWA projects approved by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) is US$ 241.3 million. However, project approval does not imply approval of the materials required to complete the project. The total value of projects approved by COGAT but without the materials required to complete the project is US$ 15.6million. The November 2016 UNRWA Construction Update is attached.
- To raise awareness among UNRWA Gaza Field Office (GFO) staff on the health risks related to diabetes and on how to control and prevent further complications for patients, the UNRWA Health Programme initiated a series of education sessions on diabetes from 4 to 6 December. The four sessions will include an introductory session on diabetes and sessions on diet and exercise for diabetes patients, medication and lastly, monitoring complications of diabetes. These trainings are implemented in cooperation with Micro Clinic International (MCI). The staff benefitting from these sessions will be messengers within the Palestine refugee community and among their colleagues in UNRWA to pass this knowledge and information. At the same time the World Health Organization (WHO), launched a two-year report on health access ‘Right to Health: Crossing Barriers to Access Health in the occupied Palestine Territory’ on 29 November. The report focuses on bureaucratic barriers for Palestinians to health care caused by the occupation which restricts access for patients, health personnel and ambulances.
- The exhibition ‘Palestinian Embroidery: Threads of Continuity, Identity and Empowerment’, inaugurated at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 29 November 2016, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, showcases traditional embroidered dresses, accessories and other home decorations. The exhibition will be on display until early January 2017. UNRWA in Gaza contributes to the exhibition with two initiatives, the Sulafa Embroidery Centre and the Gaza Training Centre (GTC) fashion design course. The Sulafa Embroidery Centre aims to empower refugee women by providing meaningful livelihood opportunities and giving access to the (local) market through their artisanal skills. Sulafa was established in 1950 and approximately 300 women and their families have benefitted from Sulafa per year. Currently, 250 women are gaining meaningful income through Sulafa. The GTC fashion design course was established in 2005 using a generous donation from the EU and the first cohort of graduates was in 2007. Every year, it offers a training opportunity to 24 female students who successfully completed a secondary school certificate and have design skills. A major element of the study plan is Palestinian embroidery. Several of the course graduates succeeded in being entrepreneurs and won business incubator competitions helping them to establish their own business. The GTC fashion design course and the Sulafa Embroidery Centre contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2, 5 and 8. The GTC fashion design course provides women with the skills to be successful in a complex field of work and empowers them to play a significant role in their family’s income generation and community development. Sulafa pays a fair and slightly above market norm compensation for the embroidery work, enabling women to gain income which can contribute to food security or meeting other basic needs of their families. Sulafa meets the SDG 8 in an indirect way – the embroidery activities are not full time positions, however the work is designed so that women can work from home or at CBOs – including WPCs – allowing women from more traditional families to also contribute to household income generation, and thus to the economic security of their families.
The UNRWA Shelter Update
- UNRWA was able to disburse US$ 461,234 for the reconstruction and repair works activities, for reconstruction (US$ 237,412) and severe repair works (US$ 223,822). The funds will reach a total of 63 refugee families across Gaza; they will be able to access their assistance this week.
A comprehensive shelter update will be provided in the next situation report.
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, for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Negotiations continue with the Unions on the salary survey results. During the period under review, the Unions’ suspension of any further industrial action for a period of ten days continued as a result of an agreement 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.
Four Israeli bulldozers and three tanks entered approximately 70 metres into Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
During the reporting period a fire broke out in a residential house east of Rafah, southern Gaza. No persons were injured. In total one person was killed and one was injured during a family dispute in Nuseirat, south of Gaza City. Police opened an investigation. One Palestinian woman was injured as a result of a celebratory gunfire shot in Rafah, southern Gaza. One Palestinian attempted to enter into Israel through the perimeter fence east of Rafah and was arrested by Palestinian forces. Four Palestinians, who have been trapped inside a tunnel since 27 November east of Rafah, were found dead.
During an awareness session about early marriage and gender-based violence: “How can women become Prime Minister, if they still face violence at home?”
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 Women’s Programme Centres (WPC), part of UNRWA Relief and Social Service Programme (RSSP) conducted an awareness session on 4 December about early marriage and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) for 40 women in eastern Gaza. This session is one of 21 sessions conducted by the Women’s Programme Centres targeting over 800 women and men across the Gaza strip.
At the beginning of the session a short video is shown to the women about early marriage, followed by a discussion on the topic. This encourages the women to tell their stories and their experiences with early marriage and GBV.
Ala’a, 21 years old, was one of the participants in the session. She married and became a mother when she was only 15 years old. She also faced violence from her husband. Ala’a came to the session because she wants to know more about how to prevent early marriage. She doesn’t want her daughter to live through the same experience as she did.
“This session is important for me. How do you want women to become Prime Minister or Member of Parliament, if they can’t access their rights and face violence at home? The lack of education is one of the main reasons for women’s suffering in the community,” Ala’a said.
During the session lawyer Hayat Mahmoud conducted an interactive exercise with the women about the different roles for women and men to explain what gender means and what the difference is between gender - linked to social roles - and sex – linked to biological features. At the end of the session a video was displayed on women’s success stories.
“The main goal of this session to understand that each of you can make a change, even if it’s a small change. Education is women’s weapon against violence and early marriage,” Hayat stated during the session.
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.
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.
- Rafah crossing was 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 29 November to 1 December and 4 to 6 December. On 2 December it was open for pedestrians only. On 3 December 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 29 November to 1 December and from 4 to 6 December. It was closed on 2 and 3 December.
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