Gaza situation report 174
December – 13 December 2016 | Issue 174
“I am happy with this ceremony that highlighted the human rights and values: the values that we all should enjoy and practice, the values that define our humanity.”
Khadeja Al-Shareef, 12, UNRWA student. Read more here.
- To mark the sixty-eighth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UNRWA Education Programme in Gaza organized a ceremony at Al-Zaitoun Preparatory Girls’ School A in Gaza city. Senior UNRWA officials, teachers and parents of the students attended the event. The programme for the day included activities such as songs, sketches and a drawing competition for the students. Students from the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI) performed a song about the Human Rights Day and a Dabka dance. The parents also participated in an activity where they expressed their wishes for their children for the future. For over ten years UNRWA has been integrating human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance in its school activities. In May 2012, the Agency endorsed its new Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) Policy to further strengthen human rights education in UNRWA. This policy builds upon past successes, but also draws from international best practices and paves the way to better integrate human rights education in all our schools.
- The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) conducted a workshop for 15 participants such as parents, UNRWA teachers and head teachers from the Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza city and UNRWA schools, as well as social workers and school counsellors, to enable them to better support the integration of visually impaired students into society. The one-day training included workshops, presentations and discussions led by opticians, social workers, head teachers and also a former visually impaired student at the RCVI, all aiming at promoting concrete ideas and strategies on how to raise awareness in the community to better integrate children with disabilities, and how to better advocate for their rights. Children with disabilities in Gaza face many challenges. On 13 December the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the occupied Palestinian territory launched its “Every child counts: understanding the needs and perspectives of children with disabilities in the State of Palestine” report in Gaza. The report explores how Palestinian children with disabilities (PCWD) are marginalized and excluded, the obstacles they face in fulfilling their rights and what mechanisms might be put into place by the government, donors and non-governmental organizations, communities and families to better support their development. According to UNICEF, PCWD face a particularly dire situation due to cultural stigma directed at their disability and the poverty and conflict that surrounds them. UNRWA support children with disabilities in Gaza not only though the RCVI, but also through its inclusive education approach which integrates children with disabilities in regular UNRWA schools, or through seven Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRC) across Gaza which provide educational and other services to persons with disabilities.
- During the reporting week, on 10 December, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Campaign came to an end. For the campaign, UNRWA had joined more than 5,000 UN agencies, organizations, governments and countless individuals to raise awareness on violence against women. The UNRWA communications with communities (CwC) team, part of the Gaza Field Communications Office, cooperated with the Gaza-based Alwan radio station to launch an awareness-raising radio programme focusing on topics such as early marriage, Gender-Based Violence, women’s rights and women’s economic empowerment. Each session featured staff and experts from UNRWA – e.g. from its Microfinance Programme, Gender Initiative, Legal Units or Health Programme - and other (humanitarian) organizations in Gaza, as well as a personal testimony and success story from a Palestine refugee woman who had received support from the Agency, e.g. a woman who had been forced into early marriage, a woman who survived GBV, or a female entrepreneur. The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, participated in the first session.
- To increase its accountability, UNRWA seeks feedback from its beneficiaries through various platforms, for example through the Relief and Social Service Programme’s (RSSP) petition system. In November, RSSP received almost 400 petitions from Palestine refugees across Gaza, and as of to date, already replied to approximately one fourth of them. Most inquiries focus on shelter rehabilitation, followed by food assistance, cash assistance and opportunities through the Job Creation Programme (JCP). Further, over the past month RSSP social workers, as part of a regular process, conducted home visits to almost 9,050 refugee families and assessed their households status and assistance eligibility through UNRWA’s Poverty Assessment System. The RSSP Disability Programme also, in cooperation with several non-government organizations, distributed assistive devices to 30 persons with disabilities; in addition, 730 persons with disabilities benefitted from special education services in seven RSSP-supported Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres.
- UNRWA maintains Chief Area Offices (CAO) in all of its five governorates to maintain closer community links; Chiefs of Area Offices have a representative function at the area level and lead an area management team which, among other tasks, addresses area-specific issues and problems. During the week, the CAO in the Gaza Middle Area implemented a workshop to address the health, security and environmental impact of street vendors in front of UNRWA schools on UNRWA students. Street vendors often sell unhealthy food, create a lot of rubbish and their stalls often block streets in front of schools and health centres, causing traffic jams. The mayor, community representatives, including vendors, and UNRWA area staff from its Education and Health Programmes and Operations Support Office attended the workshop which aimed at finding a joint and fair solution for all while ensuring that vendors would be able to continue earning a living. In the future, it was agreed that the municipality would do more regular checks on vendors and UNRWA will focus more on raising awareness among parents and students on healthy food and healthy lifestyles.
The UNRWA Shelter Update
Overview of assistance disbursed
As of 29 November 2016:
Completed and ongoing payments
As 29 November 2016:
- UNRWA has completed payments to almost 646 families for reconstruction, to over 67,000 refugee families for minor repair works, to 4,134 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, and to 16 families for major repair works.
- Payment transfers for over 700 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters and for almost 10,860 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
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 overall reconstruction, chief among them a lack of funding. Residential reconstruction has been delayed due to several factors. 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.
As of 29 November 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$ 275.5 million.
Funding gaps and needs – rental subsidy payments
As of 29 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
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 29 November 2016:
- 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 over 49,000 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments (first tranche payments) to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
During the reporting week, one Palestinian was injured during a protest near the perimeter fence with Israel. The protestors, civilians and mostly youth, expressed 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.
Various other protests were held during the week, for example in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
A Palestinian merchant was arrested by Israeli forces when crossing back into Gaza at Erez Crossing; another Palestinian was arrested by Israeli forces when he tried to enter Israel through the perimeter fence. One militant was killed accidently when an explosive device went off in northern Gaza; a policeman and a passer-by were injured by gunshots during clashes between the police and a wanted Salafist. The suspect was later captured. Further, two militants died and one was injured in a tunnel collapse in eastern Gaza city.
“Despite the injustice, I still believe in human rights”: UNRWA celebrates human rights day in Gaza
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December, celebrating the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone else’s rights.
On 10 December and following days, UNRWA students organized a variety of celebrations and festivities. In the UNRWA Al Zaitoun Preparatory Girl’s school in Gaza city the celebrations included different performances by students, such as songs, sketches or drawing competitions, to raise awareness about and highlight the importance of teaching human rights to children.
During her welcoming remarks, school principal Ms. Nawal Ekteia’ emphasized that most of UNRWA schools’ activities are focusing on enhancing human rights values. “The level of awareness regarding human rights among our students is very high and I am proud of that; it shows how seriously they take these values and that they play a role in their life.”
14-year old Nesma Al Louh confirmed the principal’s perception: “I am a Palestine refugee living in Gaza and I already witnessed a lot of injustice in my short life, but I still believe in human rights and I am convinced that one day, me and my fellow students will enjoy these rights.”
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.
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$ 37 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 open from 10 to 12 December. It was closed on the remaining days of the 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 13 to 15 December and from 18 to 20 December. On 16 December it was open for pedestrians only. On 17 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 13 to 15 and 18 to 20 December. It was closed on 16 and 17 December.
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