Gaza Situation Report 181

17 February 2017
UNRWA students during casting auditions in the UNRWA TV studio at the Gaza Field Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Hussain Jaber

7 February – 14 February | Issue 181

Highlights

  • UNRWA estimates that due to the impact of the blockade and recurrent conflicts approximately 30 per cent of UNRWA students require structured psychosocial interventions. It has been noted that feelings of desperation, hopelessness and lack of perspective also lead to a rise in suicides in Gaza, as reported by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. In response, the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) maintains a network of 287 counsellors and 82 psychosocial facilitators in UNRWA schools, in addition to 21 counsellors and five legal advisors in UNRWA’s Health Centres. From 30 January to 2 February 2017, the programme held a capacity building training for 25 Area Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Supervisors and Assistant MHPSS Supervisors. The four-day training was conducted by Nimisha Patel, an international expert. The first two days were oriented to risk assessment and safety planning, critical to identifying and supporting children and adults experiencing more serious difficulties including protection concerns. The second two days focused on the introduction of the well-being counselling group which aims to enhance coping and psychosocial well-being of individuals, while also strengthening mutual understanding and support. The CMHP provides a package of integrated MHPSS interventions including life skills, structured psychosocial and guidance sessions, as well as individual and group counselling.In the beginning of February, over 262,000 refugee children returned to 267 schools to start the second semester of the 2016/2017 school year. As part of UNRWA’s commitment to provide quality education for Palestine refugees, the Agency offered 200 fixed term contracts for teacher posts to ensure the continuity of its education programme. Candidates were selected to fill these posts based on their rankings within the list after passing the technical test and the interview phases. A total of 18,788 applicants attended the test and 1,410 applicants were shortlisted and invited to the interviews.  449 candidates were contacted at the beginning of the scholastic year for daily contracts, using the waiting lists valid till the end 2016/2017 scholastic year according to UNRWA recruitment policy. In total, there are 8,529 dedicated UNRWA teachers who facilitate the education of Palestine refugee students in all five areas of the Gaza Strip, led by 247 school principals and 265 deputy school principals.
  • In the beginning of this year, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) in Gaza started the first of four food distribution rounds, providing food baskets to almost one million beneficiaries. In January, RSSP distributed parcels to over 278,400 Social Safety Net beneficiaries (Abject Poor beneficiaries, those individuals who live below US$ 1.74 per person per day); additionally, almost 122,000 Abject Poor individuals received non-food items – such as mattresses and hygiene-related articles – from the Agency. To continue to assess the household status and the eligibility of families to receive UNRWA assistance (Poverty Assessment System), in January RSSP social workers visited over 8,100 families across Gaza;. Over the same period, almost 31,000 previously assessed families were notified of their assessment results via SMS. In the beginning of 2016, UNRWA had changed the content of the food baskets to make them more nutritionally valuable. To gauge the satisfaction of refugees with their assistance and to listen to their overall feedback and suggestions, in January RSSP implemented 40 focus groups across the Gaza Strip.
  • UNRWA has fully implemented the family health team and e-health approach in all 22 UNRWA Health Centres in Gaza. It is the first of UNRWA’s five fields of operation to do so. The situation for Palestine refugees in Gaza is far from easy. In an environment of increasing health care needs, particularly due to the spread of Non-Communicable Diseases, it has become imperative to find and adopt new strategies to respond effectively, often by making use of modern technology and software. The family health team approach and the e-health project do exactly that. The Family Health Team approach has personalized UNRWA health services through team management of family files, and the introduction of operational changes to make Health Centres more efficient and accessible for Palestine refugees. It has improved patient flow in the centres and equalized the workload among staff. Introduced with the family health team approach is an electronic patient record system referred to as 'e-health', streamlining service delivery into an electronic platform. It allows for better documentation, more accurate data, improved efficient supervision, and decision making that can be based on a stronger analysis of the received data. In total, 685 health staff were trained on the e-health system. To celebrate the two important projects and recognize staff who worked tirelessly to see through their successful implementation, on 13 February UNRWA held a ceremony in Maghazi Health Centre in middle Gaza. The event was also attended by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, and the Director of UNRWA’s Health Programme for the Agency, Dr. Akihiro Seita, as well as the Chief Field Health Programme, Dr. Ghada Al Jadba.
  • The UNRWA Job Creation Programme, in partnership with the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre in Gaza city, completed a vocational training project for 350 ‘over-aged’ refugee youth students (meaning those youth who have previously failed two or more years in school). The project offered vocational training courses in 10 specializations, ranging from plumbing, electrical wiring, plastering, and maintenance works to photography or food processing. The project was implemented for the second time and consisted of six months of theoretical education followed by six months of practical training in the form of an apprenticeship in a private business in Gaza. Projects for over-aged students attempt to provide vulnerable refugee youth who have shown difficulties in (academic) education for a variety of reasons with a second chance to progress, excel at and develop important practical skills; this increases their chances in the constrained and hence highly competitive Gaza labour market where unemployment for youth reached 63.8 per cent in the last quarter of 2016. In 2016, 3,520 students were enrolled in regular technical and vocational training courses and in the vocational training initiative for vulnerable youth at both of UNRWA’s Vocational Training Centres (in Gaza city and Khan Younis, in southern Gaza). Further, around 735 youth of the vocational training initiative were offered an apprenticeship in the local market. 57 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.
  • Over the past two months, UNRWA completed seven construction projects: three school buildings, two health centres and two infrastructure projects. As of end of January, the total value of completed projects is almost US$ 4.6 million.  23 infrastructure projects worth US$ 54.34 million are under implementation. At present, the total value of UNRWA projects approved by the Israeli 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. For more detailed information on UNRWA’s construction activities please consult the attached December and January UNRWA Construction Updates.

Operational Environment

During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.  

Civilians, mostly youth, staged protests near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza to express their eagerness to defend Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. No injuries were reported.

Other regular protests were held during the week, predominantly in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Four Israeli bulldozers entered approximately 50 metres into Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. Militants fired one test rocket towards the sea. No injuries were reported. 

Fire broke out in two different shops due to short circuits. The shops sustained damage but no injuries were caused. A coffee shop was set ablaze by arsonists; the shop sustained damage but no injuries were reported. The police launched an investigation.
A 20-year old Palestinian worker died and 13 others were injured (suffocation) due to a tunnel collapse in Rafah, southern Gaza.

UNRWA Response

Gaza-based UNRWA TV team organizes casting auditions for refugee students to participate in its next educational season

Eleven-year-old Yara Deeb (left) and 12- year old Menna Al-Khour (right) perform a play during the casting auditions in the UNRWA TV studio at the Gaza Field Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Hussain Jaber
Eleven-year-old Yara Deeb (left) and 12- year old Menna Al-Khour (right) perform a play during the casting auditions in the UNRWA TV studio at the Gaza Field Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Hussain Jaber

From 7 to 9 February, the UNRWA TV team, part of the Gaza Field Communications Office, conducted a casting audition for 117 students aged between 9 and 12 years old from UNRWA schools across Gaza. The auditions were to select the new team of child actors for the production of the second educational programme season on UNRWA TV. The casting auditions took place at the UNRWA TV studio in the Gaza Field Office (GFO), from which the 16 most talented and suitable students will be chosen to work alongside the TV team over the summer holidays, from June to September 2017.

“We aim to develop new, non-stereotypical forms of education by using creative and interesting teaching tools such as singing, drama, dancing and playing. The criteria to choose the children who will participate is simple: as the children are required to teach and explain the curriculum to other children they need to be strong communicators and high achievers in school; in addition, they should have some singing, dancing and acting skills,” said 30-year old Mahmoud Abu-Sal, one of the producers of the programme, which is part of the UNRWA TV education in emergencies project.

The educational season is planned to be broadcast in the next (2017/2018) school year starting in September. For this purpose, the selected students and the UNRWA TV team will produce a total of 32 innovative lessons – eight episodes for each of the core subjects English, Arabic, Mathematics and Science.

Eleven-year old Yara Deeb is one of the students auditioning and feels excited about UNRWA TV’s programmes: “I used to watch UNRWA TV and learn many things from it; I then decided that I also want to be like the children in the TV. There are limited opportunities in Gaza to practice acting, and I see UNRWA TV as my only chance. In addition, it would be an interesting hobby to fill my free time during the summer holidays.” 

During the casting, the selection panel asked the children to sing a song, recite a poem, invent an imaginary story and perform a prepared play to test their acting skills, self- confidence, imagination, creativity and their ability to explain educational content to other children.  

UNRWA TV was established in early 2012 as production unit and broadcaster. It broadcasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Besides humanitarian communication programming, it brings innovative educational lessons to affected children in all fields. During 2016, the UNRWA TV crew, in cooperation with the Agency’s Gaza Education Programme, had developed the first season of the new educational project and for the first time applied a ‘children teaching children’ approach. In total, the team produced 24 episodes for the core subjects Arabic, English, Science and Mathematics. Promotional videos are currently broadcast on UNRWA TV and its associated YouTube channel and can be view here: Arabic, English, Mathematics and Science.

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 the 2017 oPt Emergency Appeal.

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 open from 11 to 13 February. It was closed during the remaining of the reporting weeks. 
  • 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 7 to 9 February and 12 to 14 February. On 10 February it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 11 February.
  • 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 7 to 9 and 12 to 14 February. It was closed on 10 and 11 February.
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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