Gaza Situation Report 186

23 March 2017
The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, local community leaders, teachers and students attended the opening of a rooftop garden in UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Girls School B. © 2017 UNRWA Photo

14 March – 21 March | Issue 186

Highlights

  • UNRWA estimates that during 2016 Gaza Field Office generated more than 27,700 jobs, including over 14,700 regular staff, more than 4,600 Job Creation Programme (JCP) full-time job-equivalents and close to 9,000 construction worker full-time equivalents (FTEs). Internal analysis suggests that this represents 9.6 per cent of the employed workforce in Gaza and that the Agency contributed to reducing unemployment by 5.6 per cent. Recurrent conflict and the almost decade-long blockade on Gaza have crippled the coastal enclave’s economy, which has one of the highest unemployment rates worldwide. According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Gaza was at 43.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2016. Additionally, 68.6 per cent of females in Gaza are reportedly unemployed, and a staggering 64 per cent of youth. By providing short-term employment opportunities to vulnerable refugees the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP) in Gaza enables beneficiaries to address their basic living needs, provides them with an important sense of dignity and self-worth, and an opportunity to direct their potential towards upward mobility. Due to lack of funding, the number of offered job opportunities decreased in 2016, from 29,000 in 2015. The gap in funding was approximately US $4.1 million.
  • From 15-16 March 2017, UNRWA’s Director, External Relations and Communications Department (ERCD), Ms. Francoise Vanni, and the Agency’s Chief, Donor Relations Division, Mr. Marc Lassouaoui, conducted a field visit to the Gaza Strip. The delegation met with Gaza headquarters and field office colleagues. They also held discussions with UNRWA school parliament members and received an overview of activities implemented by the Community Mental Health Programme in UNRWA Jabalia Prep Girls "A" School located in northern Gaza. Additionally, the delegation visited the Al-Ustaz Garment Factory with whom UNRWA has established a partnership for its Job Creation Programme. Through regular visits to UNRWA’s five fields of operation, the Directors are able to connect face-to-face with their support teams and gain a deeper understanding of the needs of beneficiaries. This allows them to better develop targeted work-plans for prioritized market opportunities in the context of the Agency’s Resource Mobilization Strategy (RMS).
  • During February, UNRWA completed three construction projects: reconstruction of a school canteen, maintenance works at two schools and construction of thirteen generator rooms for schools in Gaza. As of the end of February, 26 infrastructure projects worth US$57.85 million are under implementation while 20 projects worth US$ 28 million are awaiting implementation. 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 February UNRWA Construction Updates.
  • On 21 March 2017, a rooftop garden was opened in UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Girls School B, in Gaza’s Middle Area. The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, attended the event with senior UNRWA staff, local community leaders, teachers and students. The garden is designed to provide students with recreational space and teach them about caring for plants. It is hoped that this will provide stress relief and positive psychosocial benefits to students. The pilot project has also been developed in response to the scarcity of green spaces found in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The coastal enclave stretches approximately 45 kilometres from north to south and is about 5 kilometres wide, comprising an area of 365 square kilometres. Of its 1.9 million inhabitants, 1.3 million are Palestine refugees. As a result of the most recent conflict in 2014, more than 16 square kilometres of arable land and greenhouses were destroyed, according to a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report.
  • UNRWA opened a Palestinian Heritage Museum in its Deir El-Balah Preparatory Girls School “C” on 21 March 2017. Through the display of several Palestinian traditional embroidered dresses, classic straw baskets, old pottery jars, antique agricultural hand tools and other Palestinian antiques, the project celebrates and preserves Palestinian identity. The event was attended by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, and UNRWA students and school staff. This unique project is also part of UNRWA’s ongoing efforts to communicate and engage with the Palestinian community in the Gaza Strip.
  • On 16 March 2017, more than 65 elderly women and men gathered at Al Daraj Women’s Programme Centre (WPC) for an awareness-raising session organized by UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) Gaza East and South Area Offices, in coordination with the Women Programme Centres. The aim of this initiative was to help ensure that elderly people are aware of eyes diseases and are informed of ways in which they can prevent them. The session also offered a chance to conduct eyesight checkups for the participants. The awareness sessions align with an Agency-wide effort to raise awareness among the Palestine refugee community about the importance of healthy lifestyles.

Operational Environment

During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and/or towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. No injuries were reported.

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 protests that took place included those in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, those in support of ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf and in protest to the UN Secretary-General’s position on the ESCWA report, on the UNRWA curriculum materials and regarding the reconstruction process.

During the reporting week, from 14-16 March, the UNRWA Local Staff Union (LSU) positioned against international staff in the UNRWA Gaza Field Office (GFO) compound. International staff were able to enter the compound after working hours on each day (from 1530) and over the weekend. The Gaza Field Office Business Continuity Preparedness Plan for emergencies was implemented, and a temporary office for internationals set up offsite in Gaza city. Senior management discussions with the LSU continued over 17-18 March weekend and internationals returned to the GFO compound as per normal on Sunday, 19 March. 

On 15 March, an unmanned aerial vehicle operated by Israeli forces crashed east of Gaza city. No injuries were reported. During the reporting week, eight Israeli bulldozers entered approximately 60 metres from the security fence. The Israeli troops conducted a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. 

On 15 March, militants fired a rocket that landed in an open area in Sdot Negev Regional Council; on 18 March, militants fired one rocket that landed in an open area in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council; militants fired one rocket towards Israel on 19 March; the rocket landed in an open area inside Gaza. No injuries or damages were reported. Israeli air forces fired four missiles on 16 March and three on 18 March into Gaza, and forces positioned at the security fence fired four tank shells towards the Palestinian area; no injuries were reported.

One Palestinian youth was arrested by Israeli forces after entering Israel through the perimeter fence. 

UNRWA Response

UNRWA field logistics office and distribution centres: hard work and dignity through food security for Palestine refugees in Gaza

Rabea Abu-Tabeakh (middle), an UNRWA Distribution Officer, managing co-workers packing food parcels in Al-Touffah Distribution Centre, eastern Gaza.  © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj
Rabea Abu-Tabeakh (middle), an UNRWA Distribution Officer, managing co-workers packing food parcels in Al-Touffah Distribution Centre, eastern Gaza. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

“When I assist people getting their food parcels, I feel that I am contributing to the humanitarian work of UNRWA. I feel proud to support people in need,” said Rabea Abu Tabeekh, an UNRWA Distribution Officer for UNRWA field Logistics Office in Gaza.

Rabea has worked for UNRWA for the past 17 years and currently manages 30 female and male packing and distribution workers in Al-Touffah Distribution Centre in eastern Gaza. Al-Touffah is one of twelve UNRWA Distribution Centres across Gaza, providing food security for almost one million Palestine refugees in Gaza.

Rabea and his team help to ensure that the UNRWA warehouse dispatches the right quantities of food according to the distributions plan. They make sure that the food packed is of good quality; that each beneficiary receives the right quantity of food, and that beneficiary feedback is sought and responded to. 

“Every day I am in direct contact with refugees and I see how much they need their food baskets. They are depending on the food assistance provided by UNRWA to feed their family. We work to help ensure that they can do this, and live with dignity,” explains Rabea.  

On a quarterly basis, UNRWA provides a food basket to all eligible refugee families under two categories: absolute food ration (households that are living below US$3.87 per person per day) and Social Safety Net ration (households that are living below US$1.47 per person per day). In both cases, the food baskets contain quantities of wheat flour, rice, sunflower oil, sugar, dried milk, lentils and chickpeas.

“To avoid crowding in the distribution centre and to save time for staff and beneficiaries, we have established three distribution windows: one to pick-up the flour, one to pick-up the oil and dried milk and the last window to pick-up the prepared package containing sugar, rice, lentil and chickpeas,” said Rabea.

The UNRWA Field Logistics Office in Gaza supports all UNRWA programmes and offices in terms of providing high-quality logistics services including storekeeping, transportation and distribution of food assistance for refugees. Logistics staff inspect, receive, store and issue an average of more than 130,000 tons of supplies per year such as food items and non-food items (NFIs) including blankets, mattresses, school books and furniture. The Field Logistics Office distributes about 30,000 tons of food assistance to over 950,000 beneficiaries on a quarterly basis in addition to NFIs for affected families, through its 12 Distribution Centres across the Gaza Strip.

Prior to the distribution, during February and March 2016, the UNRWA Gaza Field Office launched an extensive outreach campaign on new food baskets to ensure that beneficiaries are informed about the changes and their questions and concerns are addressed in a pro-active way. In addition to wide-range of community outreach meetings and awareness sessions on health and nutrition, the UNRWA Field Communications Office created an animation video that explains the process in detail. The video is currently broadcast on UNRWA TV and its corresponding YouTube channel and can be watched here. GFO also produced and is broadcasting on UNRWA TV seven episodes of a cooking show based on the ingredients of the new food baskets.

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 1.9 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 travellers, 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 14-16 March and 19-21 March. On 17 March it was open for emergency medical cases. It was closed on 18 March.
  • 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 on 14-16 and 19-21 March and closed 17-18 March. 
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