Gaza Situation Report 188

09 April 2017
© 2017 UNRWA Photo

28 March – 4 April 2017 | Issue 188

Highlights

  • 262 UNRWA schools in Gaza are currently participating in the Arab Reading Challenge initiative, a competition first launched in September 2015 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. 55,801 Palestine refugee students showed interest to participate, and 44,635 of them have subscribed electronically on the project website. 10,225 students have already finished reading 50 books and the information from schools reported much larger number of students participating who are not registered yet because of technical reasons. The Dubai Committee will arrive in the first week of May to make the final field evaluation to choose 10 competitors from both non-UNRWA and UNRWA schools. Data revealed by the Arab Reading Challenge initiative showed that six million students have participated in this, the second round of the challenge, compared to 3.6 million in the first round in 2015/16. The Arab Reading Challenge is an Arab project aiming to encourage learning and raise awareness of the importance of reading and promotion of Arab language among students.
  • Preparations for this year’s Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) in Gaza continue. Activities will take place in over 120 different locations across the Gaza Strip, including installations that facilitate the participation of children with special needs. The SFWs include sports activities such as football and basketball as well as popular games like trampolines, slides or sack races. Other activities such as handicrafts and drawing will also be offered. The UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks are one of many efforts of the Agency to support refugee children’s psychosocial needs by providing them with a safe and fun place to play and the possibility to develop new friendships. SFW will also create short-term employment opportunities for young people in Gaza who will work as animators, location managers and cleaners through UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme.
  • Three area staff from Gaza Field Office – Mr. Mamoun Abu Warda, Assistant Projects Officer, Field Projects, Planning and Programme Support Office, Mr. Sami Abu-Ikmeil, Career Management Officer, Field Human Resources Office and Dr. Ghada Al-Jadba, Chief, Field Health Programme - were selected as members of the Area Staff Consultative Group meeting with the Agency’s Commissioner-General on 3 April 2017 in Amman, Jordan. Participants were asked to be active contributors to the group’s discussions, bringing ideas and perspectives to the table, particularly as they relate to the role and effectiveness of the Agency, and the challenges it faces. Creation of the Area Staff Consultative Group is one of the Commissioner-General’s initiatives to improve staff relations, supported by Swiss project funding. The group met with the Commissioner-General, with the aim of identifying challenges facing the Agency, discussing openly and recommending solutions. 
  • Access issues imposed by the de facto authorities in Gaza continued during the reporting week (read more in crossings section). Freedom of movement limitations to and from Gaza at the 4/4 checkpoint come in the aftermath of the killing of a senior Palestinian militant on 24 March in Gaza City by unknown assailants. Restrictions have also been applied to international and national United Nations staff. The Palestinian de facto authorities in Gaza are imposing new access restrictions, citing security reasons, which are negatively impacting already vulnerable sectors in Gaza. These restrictions are taking place before the upcoming Israeli national and religious holidays when the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled passenger and goods crossings are normally reduced. The de facto authorities in Gaza have also prevented fishermen from going out to sea, citing security concerns. According to UN OCHA, citing the local fishermen's syndicate, more than 500 fishing trips are being cancelled every day affecting the livelihoods of more than 1,500 fishermen and their families. These Palestinian-imposed measures exacerbate the implications of an almost ten- years-long blockade imposed by Israel and the near-complete Egyptian closure of the Rafah crossing since 2014.

Operational Environment

Movement restrictions imposed by the de-facto authorities from and to Gaza through the 4/4 checkpoint on the Gaza side of Erez crossing continued during the reporting week (please see crossings and highlight sections for details).

On 29 and 31 March, and 1 April, Israeli patrol boats fired towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported. On 31 March, three rockets were test-fired by militants towards the sea from northwest of Gaza city. Israeli troops positioned at the perimeter fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas on an almost 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 and Palestinians in Israeli prisons. 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, on demands for limited-duration and fixed-term job contracts, on the UNRWA curriculum materials and regarding the reconstruction process. Several commemoration demonstrations were held regarding the 41st anniversary of “Land Day.” The INGO World Vision also held a sit-in and press conference in solidarity with its director of operations in Gaza, who was detained in Israeli jails.

During the week under review, desperation and depression in the community was evidenced by one 31 year old man committing suicide by throwing himself off a roof near Palestine Stadium, and another 27 year old man who attempted suicide by setting himself on fire.

Road checkpoints were set up in Gaza during the week. Some UN vehicles were stopped for searching, but any attempts to search were refused.

UNRWA Response

UNRWA TV: Accurate, timely humanitarian information, and reaching children who have limited access to formal education

40-year-old Sami Yousef, Digital Editor at UNRWA TV and Multimedia Unit, part of the Gaza Field Communications Office, at his editing desk. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Khaled Tiama
40-year-old Sami Yousef, Digital Editor at UNRWA TV and Multimedia Unit, part of the Gaza Field Communications Office, at his editing desk. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Khaled Tiama

Forty-year-old Sami Yousef has been working as a Digital Editor at UNRWA TV and Multimedia unit, part of the Field Communications Office in Gaza, for eight years. He believes that UNRWA TV breaks the stereotype in education delivery, and provides support for Palestine refugees through accurate and timely humanitarian information.

“I love my job,” Sami says. “I am part of a wonderful and creative team, I work primarily in education projects through which we use songs, drama and games to add fun and entertainment to education and learning; my responsibility is to deliver the final clean versions of videos.”

Sami is one of three Digital Editors on the team, and their main responsibilities are to manage and edit all materials and soundtracks and develop and manage subtitles and graphics.

“When I think there are children who can’t go to school because of conflict and emergencies, then they will watch UNRWA TV and learn, I am reminded that this work may change their lives,” Sami says.

Sami has also been involved in many advocacy and donor/partnership projects during his work at UNRWA TV. His favourite has been SOS4Gaza, because it tells the world Palestine refugees children in Gaza have the same dreams and hopes as children everywhere.

“When people meet me and say they watch UNRWA TV, I become proud because I contributed to that impact and success; nothing makes me happy more than being part of this service for refugee children,” Sami adds.

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, developed the first season of the new educational project and for the first time applied a ‘children teaching children’ approach. UNRWA TV produces a wide range of advocacy and awareness-raising material, such as a cooking show, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)awareness, and a health talk show for women. The UNRWA TV YouTube channel has surpassed 100,000 subscriptions and was provided with the YouTube Silver Play Button award. The team has also just completed auditions for actors in the next series, which will soon start production.

Follow the channel 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. 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 2017 oPt Emergency Appeal. 

Crossings

Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.9 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 to cross into Gaza from 28-31 March and 2-3 April, whilst the Arba Arba crossing (controlled by the de facto authorities) allowed only medical cases and special coordination cases to exit Gaza on the same dates. Of nine requests, only one UN staff member managed to leave Gaza with special coordination on 29 March. On 31 March, de facto authorities announced that UN international staff were allowed to exit Gaza. The crossing was closed on 1 April. From 2-3 April, UN international staff continued to enter and exit without special coordination at Arba Arba. UN and INGO national staff required special coordination. 
  • 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 28-31 March and 203 April. The crossing was closed on 1 April.