Gaza Situation Report 177

19 January 2017
Palestine refugee girl in front of her make-shift home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj

10 January – 17 January 2017 | issue 177

Ala'a Abu Al-Ajeen“This job gave me the opportunity to meet new and more experienced people and to learn from them; I wish that all graduates could have the same opportunity I got.”

Ala’a Abu Al-Ajeen, a Job-Creation Programme beneficiary. Read more here.

 

Highlights

  • 09Between January and November 2016, UNRWA created job opportunities for approximately 19,200 beneficiaries through the Job Creation Programme (JCP), injecting US$ 13.86 million into the Gaza economy. Out of the total job opportunities, approximately one third were awarded to women and over 4,600 to young adults (between 18 and 26 years of age). Given the worsening socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip, the Agency has increased its JCP from 17,060 opportunities in 2013 to 20,550 jobs in 2014 and 32,000 in 2015. Due to lack of funding, the number of offered job opportunities strongly decreased in 2016. UNRWA also addresses high unemployment through its Graduate Training Programme (GTP) by generating job opportunities for fresh graduates. In 2016, 1,942 graduates benefited from the GTP; overall since its inception in 2001, over 32,000 fresh graduates were awarded with job opportunities.
  • 04In 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 started their training in September, and over 1,230 students completed their studies and celebrated their graduation in 2016. Furthermore, UNRWA facilitated an apprenticeship in the local market for around 735 youth of the vocational training initiative57 per cent of all students come from Social Safety Net households – meaning those families that are living below US$ 1.74 per person per day. To date more than 22,000 students have completed the UNRWA Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme. To celebrate the International Youth Day on 12 August the UNRWA Gender Initiative organized a two-day training, awareness sessions and an advocacy campaign on recycling and resource efficiency for over 400 young persons (200 women and 200 men) across the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the Relief and Social Services Programme provides regular sports activities for over 3,000 youth per month through its Youth Activity Centres in refugee camps. To learn more about UNRWA’s operations in 2016, please consult the attached UNRWA operational achievements 2016 fact sheet.
  • Training and Learning CentersUNRWA estimates that due to blockade and recurrent conflicts approximately 30 per cent of UNRWA students require structured psychosocial interventions. To build staff capacity and skills to respond to these needs, the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) over the past weeks has organized a series of trainings for psychosocial facilitators and school counsellors. Under the title of “a brighter future for UNRWA students”, the trainings addressed basic skills related to psychosocial support and working with children within a child centred framework; courses also focused on life skills and the practical implementation of the new CMHP life skills manual. Implemented by CMHP assistant supervisors and experienced school counsellors who had received the Life Skills Training of Trainers (TOT) in December last year, the trainings also included topics such as self-awareness, stress and anger management, coping with setbacks (resilience), positive thinking and dealing with anxiety. To promote the wellbeing of Palestine refugees in Gaza, CMHP has expanded its programming in 2016 to include 105 psychosocial facilitators in a number of UNRWA schools to support the 230 school counsellors. So far 185 psychosocial facilitators and school counsellors have received the training on life skills with plans to target the remaining 150 staff in the coming weeks. The trainings were also held in preparation of the launch of the newly structured life skills intervention programme in UNRWA schools; this programme will be complemented by structured parenting groups with the intention of supporting their own needs and reinforcing parental engagement with their children.
  • Sulafa logo officialThe UNRWA-supported Sulafa Embroidery Centre was selected by the International Folk Art Alliance as one of the five finalists for an artist award in the “Excellence in Community Impact” category; awards will be distributed at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market which will take place in July 2017 in the United States; a representative from Sulafa will be present at the fair. The International Folk Art Alliance honours artists or artist organizations that are extraordinary examples of its mission to preserve living folk art traditions and create economic opportunities for and with folk artists. The community impact award goes to an organization that has had a positive impact on social change in their community. The Sulafa Embroidery Centre based in the Gaza Strip was established in 1950 by UNRWA to provide income opportunities for Palestine refugee women. In the following six decades with no political solution for the plight for Palestine refugees in sight, Sulafa has become more than a livelihood programme. It is also a way to preserve the traditions and culture of embroidery within the Palestinian society and pass the stories and skills from one generation to the next. With women’s economic activity mainly in unpaid agricultural work, low-paid and informal employment, women are at a higher risk of exploitation and poor working conditions. Furthermore, the Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement of goods and people further hinder women’s opportunities to access education, work and other opportunities outside of Gaza. Sulafa aims to respond to this need by supporting approximately 300 local artisans through commissioning traditional and contemporary embroidered goods. This approach allows for women to support their families, which in Gaza often rely on only one source of income, if any. Opportunities are also particularly vital for widowed, divorced or abandoned women who due to traditional, gendered social norms and customs are in an even more vulnerable position. Moreover, Sulafa ensures that opportunities are available for women who, due to very conservative communities, are not allowed to work outside of their homes.
  • 11Through its Microfinance Department (MD), UNRWA helps address the needs of the entrepreneurial and unbanked sector of the community, including low-income Palestine refugees. In 2016, the MD disbursed almost 5,000 loans worth over US$ 7.3 million. It also provided fresh graduates, university students and professionals with different technical training, some of which focuses on "Job Hunting", "Project Management" and "Gender Awareness". In 2016, the MD conducted 86 courses for 1,700 participants. Just above 43 per cent of the MD clients are female, and more than 32 per cent are below 30 years old. The MD continues to develop its loan products to increase its outreach to the community: over the past months, the MD has increased its loan amounts and repayment periods were extended. The department also modified collateral loans to facilitate access of additional groups of clients to financial services. UNRWA launched the microfinance initiative in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in the early 1990s and expanded operations to Syria and Jordan in 2003. Since 1991, the MD in Gaza issued almost 120,000 loans worth approximately US$ 153 million.

The UNRWA Shelter Update

Activities in December 2016:

fs

Completed cases:

  • The reconstruction of 74 totally destroyed homes was completed
  • Repair works for 332 severely damaged, one major damaged and 190 minor damages houses were completed

Disbursement of payments:

  • For reconstruction: US$ 1,160,997
  • For repair works: US$ 3,830,672
  • For rental subsidy payments (for the last quarter in 2016): US$ 3,382,550

I Total summary:

Shelter status as of December 2016

II Funding status for totally destroyed houses
(UNRWA and PA/Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing
Funding status for totally destroyed houses

III Allocation of assistance disbursed
Allocation of assistance disbursed

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. In some occasions police intervened and dispersed protestors and injuries were reported. Also the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, expressed his “great concern” about the tense situation unfolding in Gaza after two million Palestinians “have been left with just a couple of hours of electricity per day in the middle of the winter.”

During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. One injury was reported, and two fishermen were arrested and their boats confiscated.

A 20-year old Palestinian man attempted to commit suicide by burning himself; he was transferred to the hospital. Two Palestinian men were arrested by Israeli forces when they tried to enter Israel through the perimeter fence. A fire broke out in a shop due to a short circuit; the shop sustained damage. A 27-year old Palestinian woman was found dead in her house; the background of the incident is unclear.

Eight Israeli bulldozers entered approximately 50 metres into Gaza on two different occasions to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. In one incident Palestinian militants fired towards Israeli troops and Israeli forces responded with Heavy Machine Gun fire and fired one shell targeting a Hamas observation post. No injuries were reported.

UNRWA Response

Through its job creation programme, UNRWA provides women with opportunities to play a larger role in the community

20-year-old Ala’a Abu Al-Ajeen, a Job Creation Programme (JCP) beneficiary, taking a photo of a group of children at the Deir El-Balah Rehabilitation Association in central Gaza. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
20-year-old Ala’a Abu Al-Ajeen, a Job Creation Programme (JCP) beneficiary, taking a photo of a group of children at the Deir El-Balah Rehabilitation Association in central Gaza. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj

Finding a job in Gaza is not an easy venture; the socio-economic conditions in the tiny enclave are extremely dire, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. In quarter three of 2016, the joblessness rate stood at an average at 43.2 per cent and at 68.6 per cent for women, reports the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). The situation is particularly bleak for youth – for many, finding a job that pays bills and allows paying rent and raising a family remains a far-off dream, as the unemployment rate for youth stands at an average of 64 per cent.

Through its Job-Creation Programme (JCP), UNRWA tries to mitigate the impact of the collapsed Gaza economy and labour market by providing livelihood opportunities for Palestine refugees. The programme offers job placements in the unskilled and skilled sectors for three or six months in UNRWA installations or community organizations supporting rehabilitation work in the Gaza Strip.

20-year-old Palestine refugee Ala’a Abu Al-Ajeen lives with her 12-member family in Deir El-Balah camp in central Gaza; after completingvocational training in media at the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre she received a six month JCP opportunity as photographer in a rehabilitation association in the camp where she lives.

“This month is my fourth month working as a photographer in this association; I gained a lot of practical experience and improved my photography a lot. The money I earn I save to follow a diploma in media studies. Overall, this has been and still is a very positive experience for me which allowed me also to become more confident and play a more productive role in the community,” Ala’a explained.

The JCP offers a source of income, dignity, self-respect and self-reliance for Palestine refugee families. For many women in particular, it also offers a chance to be exposed to and play a role in the public space, since due to conservative cultural norms and traditions in Gaza women are often confined to the private sphere. The money earned through short-term job opportunities is mostly spent to cover basic needs such as medicine, fresh food or clothes, but also for further education, as in the case of Ala’a.

“In the beginning, my father was opposed to the idea of me working outside of the house, yet because he trusts UNRWA and because the Deir El-Balah Rehabilitation Association has a very good reputation in the camp, he ultimately agreed to it,” Ala’a added, obviously satisfied about her father’s change of mind.

“We have a lot of visibility and photography requests, and Ala’a is a great asset, helping with the workload which I cannot cover alone; after she finishes her JCP, I hope we will find the funds to keep her with us,” commented her supervisor Mr. Salat.

The JCP is one of the most effective means to support communities, inject cash into the local economy and stabilize struggling businesses. Between January and November 2016, UNRWA created job opportunities for approximately 19,200 beneficiaries through the Job Creation Programme (JCP), injecting US$ 13.86 million into the Gaza economy.

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. More information can be found here.

Crossings

Untitled-1Gaza map - crossingsLongstanding 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 10 to 12 and from 15 to 17 January. On 13 January it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 14 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 10 to 12 and 15 to 17 January. It was closed on 13 and 14 January.