Gaza situation report 175

22 December 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj

13 December – 20 December 2016 | Issue 175

Adobe SystemsHighlights

  • UNRWA established its Chief of Area Offices (CAOs) in all areas of Gaza in 2010 to have a local representation in the five governorates and maintain close community links. CAOs, in cooperation with the Logistics office and Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP), are also responsible for emergency assistance (winterization campaign) and the distribution of non-food items to families who were exposed to flooding, fires or other sudden socio-economic shocks. This year’s winterization campaign started in December and will continue until March 2017. To date, almost 3,000 families have received needed goods including blankets, mattresses, cooking stoves and nylon sheets from UNRWA. The logistics team is currently hiring 50 workers and five clerks through the Job Creation Programme to help meet the winterization requirements in all governorates.
  • 04As part of its efforts to address the rising number of Palestine refugee students in UNRWA schools – currently over 262,000 -  and to serve Sustainable Development Goal number eight, which calls for promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all, the Agency has hired 600 support teachers (300 for Arabic language & 300 for Mathematics) under its Graduate Training Programme (GTP). The GTP is part of UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme (JCP) which provides short-term skilled and unskilled employment opportunities for Palestine refugees. As required under the GTP, eligible applicants were graduates of 2013 and onwards, with no prior employment experience under the JCP. Selected candidates signed their contracts last week. All contracts will expire by the end of the current school year (end of May, 2017). Since its inception in 2001, almost 30,000 graduates have secured job opportunities through UNRWA’s GTP.
  • Adobe SystemsGaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, according to the World Bank, and it has been increasing in quarter three of 2016 to 43.2 per cent. 17,000 new workers entered the labour market in quarter three, yet less than 17 per cent of them were able to find employment, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). UNRWA internal analysis shows that the situation of the labour market in Gaza is even worse than what indicates the overall unemployment rate if the following factors are considered: a low labour  participation rate; discouraged workers not included among the unemployed; part-time workers considered as employed; widespread informal employment; long duration of unemployment; and low wages. 55 per cent of the population in Gaza are economically inactive, resulting in the fourth lowest participation rates worldwide, as per World Bank database. Typically, low participation is associated with low unemployment rates, yet in Gaza the opposite is true. Also PCBS definition of unemployment does not include ‘discouraged workers’, meaning workers who are outside the labour market because they believe there is no job available for them: according to the relaxed definition, unemployment in Gaza reached 49 per cent in quarter three of 2016. Further, PCBS considers employed those who work at least one hour per week, meaning that underemployment is not taken into account. The situation in the enclave is further aggravated by high levels of informal employment – 64 per cent in Gaza’s private sector employees have no contract – and by long term unemployment – the average duration of joblessness in Gaza is 16-19 months and 60 per cent of the unemployed have never worked before (40 per cent in the West Bank), reports PCBS. Lastly, even those who have a job can be exposed to poverty and food insecurity, as high prices coupled with low and stagnating nominal wages resulted, according to PCBS, in a 30 per cent reduction in real wages between 2006 and 2015.
  • Adobe SystemsIn his most recent briefing to the UN Security Council on 16 December, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the Council on Palestine, stating that while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the cause of wars in the Middle East, its resolution could create momentum for peace throughout the region. He called for the establishment of a Palestinian state, based on the UN General Assembly Resolution 181, saying that the right of the Jewish people to have a state does not negate the right of the Palestinian people to statehood. During his speech he looked back at developments over the past ten years, also mentioning his eleven visits to the region, including to Gaza during the “50 days of horror” (the 2014 conflict). He also found positive words for the work of UNRWA in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), describing us as “much-needed element of stability for 5.3 million Palestine refugees across the region”, yet facing serious financial challenges. Ultimately he warned that Gaza remains a “tinder box” with two million Palestinians “trapped in a humanitarian tragedy.” One aspect of this humanitarian tragedy is the fast dwindling of resources in the enclave.  In a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a World Bank local specialist warned that Gaza is moving towards becoming uninhabitable by 2020 – in three years – if not more water is provided from Israel. In similar warnings from the UN in 2012, it is emphasized that Gaza’s aquifer may be unusable by this year. Today, only 10 per cent of Gaza’s population have access to safe drinking water.
  • Adobe SystemsOn 19 December, the Minister of Social Development of the State of Palestine, H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Al Shaer, and the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, Mr. Robert Piper, launched the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). The HRP seeks US$ 547 million to support the most vulnerable and affected amongst Palestinian households. According to humanitarian assessments, some 1.8 million people are in high need of protection in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and 1.6 million people are moderately to severely food insecure. In Gaza, over 50,000 people remain displaced from the 2014 hostilities, while 8,000 people in the West Bank are at high risk of forcible transfer due to a coercive environment. Throughout the oPt, hundreds of thousands of people still have restricted access to essential services.

The UNRWA Shelter Update

Highlights:

  • UNRWA was able to disburse approximately US$ 1.8 million for reconstruction ((US$ 1,160,997) and severe repair works (US$ 633,752). The funds reached a total of 257 refugee families across Gaza; they were able to access their assistance this week.

A comprehensive shelter update will be provided in the next Gaza situation report.

Operational Environment

During the reporting week, protestors, civilians and 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 or by beneficiaries to demand job opportunities from UNRWA.

During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. Four Israeli bulldozers entered approximately 50 metres into Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.

A 19-year old bystander was accidentally killed during a police hunt in central Gaza. The bystander was a Palestine refugee. Several fires broke out during the week in a residential area due to short circuits. Several apartments and houses, as well as a shop, sustained severe damages and ten injuries were reported. A militant was killed and another injured as a result of an explosion during a military training.

UNRWA Response

In UNRWA schools: colour, beauty and positive messages

Artist Eman Abu Saqqer is drawing on the walls of the UNRWA Preparatory Boys School in Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj
Artist Eman Abu Saqqer is drawing on the walls of the UNRWA Preparatory Boys School in Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj

To encourage community engagement and as a means to spread positive messages, colour and life among students and people in Gaza, over the past year approximately 140 young Palestinian artists have painted the outside walls of 270 UNRWA installations across Gaza. While they finished the outer walls last summer, in September the artists also started painting 65 schools from inside, a project planned to be finished by the end of this month.

“I graduated in art six years ago and it has been hard to find an opportunity in Gaza to practice my skills, not only because of the difficult economic situation, but also because there is not much interest in art in Gaza’s society. I am thus very content to be part of this UNRWA project, which transforms grey walls into colourful murals,” commented Palestine refugee Mahmou Al Otol, one of the young artists who participates in the project.

All the artists are hired through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme, which provides short-term employment opportunities for youth whilst also beautifying Gaza’s streets and adding colour to everyday life.

“The drawings we put on the murals include educational and moral messages; when the students look at them they will not only enjoy the image, but also learn something,” explained Eman Abu Saqqer, another refugee artist who participates in the project.

The mural-drawing activity was a joint project between the Maintenance Division of the UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) and the Education Programme, under the facilitation of the UNRWA Operations Support Office. In addition to visually improving UNRWA facilities, the drawings also contribute to the installation’s neutrality. A short film on the activity – titled ‘Colours for Gaza’ and produced by UNRWA TV - can be viewed here.

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$ 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.

Crossings

Untitled-1Longstanding 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 17 and 18 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.