Gaza situation report 176

12 January 2017
Children from the Gaza Strip playing. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

3 January – 10 January | Issue 176

Highlights 

  • UNRWA launched the 2017 UNRWA Emergency Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) on 10 January with an event in Aida Boys School, Aida Camp in Betlehem, to create a human connection between donors and Palestine refugees and to showcase the unique contribution of UNRWA in serving Palestine refugee communities. Senior staff from UNRWA and other UN agencies, donor representatives as well as media attended the launch which aimed at highlighting UNRWA’s role both as a first responder to emergency situations as well as a steadfast partner in long term human development work. Both Directors of UNRWA Operations in Gaza and the West Bank, Mr. Bo Schack and Mr. Scott Anderson, briefed participants on the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in both fields and answered questions from media. Present at the event were also two UNRWA beneficiaries – one from the West Bank and one from Gaza via video conference – who briefed the audience on their life, the challenges they face and the impact of the support they receive from UNRWA. For more information on the oPt emergency appeal, please consult the attached fact sheet. 
  • On 29 December all over 262,000 UNRWA students (grade 1 to 9) began taking their 2016/17 first semester final tests in all subjects. The exam period lasted for eight days and there were three versions of every test to accommodate morning, afternoon and third shift students. All exams are school-based in terms of observation, marking and data entry. Students started their mid-year vacation immediately after the last test. On 1 February, in the beginning of the second semester, exam certificates will be distributed to students. UNRWA also provides education to youth through its two vocational training centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis, southern Gaza. In 2016, 3,520 students were enrolled in regular technical and vocational training courses and in the vocational training initiative for vulnerable youth at the two UNRWA Vocational Training Centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. Out of them, 1,110 students freshly started their training in September, and over 1,230 students completed their studies and celebrated their graduation in 2016. To date more than 22,000 students have completed the UNRWA Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.
  • The UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) contributes to reconstruction and recovery in Gaza through contracted infrastructure projects that address some of the most pressing social infrastructure, environmental health, housing and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs of Gaza. End of 2016, ICIP completed the construction of two Health centres (HC) – Al Fakhoura Health Centre (HC) in Jabalia, northern Gaza Strip, and the reconstruction of the already existing Maghazi HC, in central Gaza. Al Fakhoura HC opened its doors in the end of December and will strongly reduce the workload of Jabalia HC, which has been operating on a double shift to serve the approximately 141,000 Palestine refugees in the North area. From now on, 30 health staff in al Fakhoura will serve 51,000 beneficiaries, and Jabalia HC will be responsible for around 90,000 beneficiaries served by 68 staff members. On 3 January Maghazi HC has started operating and will be responsible for 28,188 refugees served by 28 staff members. The total number of UNRWA HCs across the Gaza Strip is now 22, while four additional HCs are currently under (re)construction.
  • The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) aims to empower Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. RSSP activities range from the distribution of food baskets and the regular assessment of refugees’ poverty status and eligibility for services through social workers, to a variety of skills training and capacity building mainly for women, children and youth. During the month of December, RSSP social workers visited over 7,227 families across Gaza to assess their poverty status. 570 Social Safety Net (SSN) families (abject poor beneficiaries: those households living under US$ 1.74 per person per day) and 34,533 absolute poor families (households living below US$ 3.87 per person per day) received their food ration in the fourth distributions cycle, and 4,896 families received non-food items such as mattresses, blankets, tarpaulin etc. Moreover, the disability sub-programme provided 79 refugees with assistive devices and 722 persons with disabilities received special education services in coordination with Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres. RSSP’s social intervention unit – responsible for the domestic, educational, economic, medical, and psycho-social or shelter needs of the most vulnerable refugees – detected 34 new intervention cases and referred an additional 91 cases inside and outside of UNRWA for assistance. Additionally 1,297 persons - through seven Women Programme Centres (WPCs) located in all five areas of the Gaza Strip - benefited from activities including vocational training and legal and psychological support. RSSP also assists other vulnerable groups such as elderly persons, children who have lost one or both parents and visually impaired children studying at the Agency’s Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza City.
  • Over the past weeks not only temperatures dropped in the Gaza Strip, but also the already meagre provision of electricity. While Gaza has been suffering from chronic fuel and electricity shortages since the imposition of the blockade in 2007 – with power cuts between 18 and 22 hours per day – the situation deteriorated during the reporting week. Households are provided with only three hours of power, followed by 12-hour power cuts. The situation worsened as one of the two generators of Gaza’s sole power plant stopped operating due to severe fuel shortages, report media. According to the media reports, out of the 600 megawatt of power needed in the enclave less than 150 megawatts are available – 120 megawatts from Israel and around 20 megawatts from Egypt. The electricity crisis in Gaza has a devastating humanitarian impact: according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), already in 2015 only 70 per cent of Gaza households were supplied with piped water every two days, up to 90 million litres of only partially treated sewage was discharged into the sea every day, and the waiting time of some types of elective surgery at Gaza’s largest hospital extended to 18 months.

Shelter Update

UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 3.4 million for the fourth quarter 2016 rental subsidy payments to still displaced Palestine refugees. The funds reached 5,400 families across the Gaza Strip; they were able to access their assistance this week. With this payment UNRWA managed to pay all 2016 quarterly rental subsidy payments to eligible, still displaced Palestine refugees in Gaza.

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, predominantly against further electricity cuts.

During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. In one such incident, a boat was crashed by Israeli patrol boats and sunk; one fisherman is missing.

Fire broke out inside two residential houses in two different occasions due to the misuse of candles or a short circuit. Both houses sustained damage and three injuries were reported.

UNRWA Response

Heyam Al Louh during the 2017 UNRWA Emergency Appeal launch: “I would call myself a business woman, however, that does not mean that I actually earn enough income”

UNRWA beneficiary Heyam Al Louh (left) and Najwa Al Sheikh-Ahmed, UNRWA Acting Public Information Officer (right) participate through Skype in the launch of the oPt Emergency Appeal for 2017. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj
UNRWA beneficiary Heyam Al Louh (left) and Najwa Al Sheikh-Ahmed, UNRWA Acting Public Information Officer (right) participate through Skype in the launch of the oPt Emergency Appeal for 2017. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al Sarraj

On 10 January, UNRWA launched its 2017 Emergency Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in Aida Boys School in Aida Camp in Bethlehem. Both Directors of UNRWA Operations in Gaza and the West Bank, Mr. Scott Anderson and Mr. Bo Schack, were present at the launch and briefed the audience  - UNRWA senior staff, donor and media representatives as well as heads of UN agencies, on the various humanitarian needs in the oPt.

Mr. Bo Schack said during his statement: “Palestine refugees are becoming increasingly vulnerable in their societies and communities under occupation and blockade in the West Bank and Gaza.” He also added, “2017 will be difficult but hopefully it also involves new opportunities and further support by our generous donors; emergency assistance provided by the Agency plays a key role in meeting the urgent needs of Palestine refugees, which in turn significantly contributes to maintaining stability in a volatile region.” 

Also two UNRWA beneficiaries – one from the West Bank and one from Gaza – participated in the launch. From Gaza, Heyam Al Louh, a 42-year-old widowed Palestine refugee, participated through video conference as she was prevented from traveling to the West Bank to attend in person due to the blockade and its severe movement restrictions. 

Heyam received UNRWA services throughout her life, predominately in health and education; in 2016, she also participated in the Female Headed household project implemented by the UNRWA Gender Initiative which consists of business training in self-development, financial literacy and household management. Shortly after completing the training, together with her brother she opened a detergent manufacturing workshop; the business quickly became the main source of income for herself and her eight children.

“Although I was hit by a terrible tragedy two years ago [her husband was killed during the 2014 conflict], I managed to become stronger and I will keep trying everything I can to survive, and provide for my family. In addition, UNRWA has supported me and my family with food assistance for the past two years. Without it, my children would go hungry,” Heyam commented. “However, I never sat idle at home, waiting for someone to help me. I do everything I can to help myself. Today, I would call myself a business woman, however, that does not mean that I actually earn enough income,” she added during her statement.

With the launch of the UNRWA Emergency Appeal, the Agency aimed to create a human connection between the donors and Palestine refugees and to showcase the unique contribution of UNRWA in serving Palestine refugee communities. It also highlighted UNRWA’s role both as a first responder to emergency situations as well as a steadfast partner in long term human development work. For the last 16 years UNRWA has had no option but to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to address the devastating effects of a protracted crisis that continues to exact devastating human, economic and social costs for the Palestinian population who are forced to endure conditions of insecurity and enforced poverty. Through the emergency appeal UNRWA provides different services including food assistance, Cash-For-Work, Summer Fun Weeks, Transitional Shelter Cash Assistance, the Summer Learning Programme and many other initiatives. 

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. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget in 2017. 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 2017, the Agency is seeking US$ 402 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt. The Gaza portion of the Emergency Appeal amounts to US$ 355 million for 2017, to address protracted, large scale humanitarian needs. Read more in the oPt Emergency Appeal for 2017

Crossings

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 3 to 5 and from 8 to 10 January. On 6 January it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 7 January.
  • 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 3 to 5 and 8 to 10 January. It was closed on 6 and 7 January.
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees