Gaza Situation Report 190

21 April 2017
Students in UNRWA schools receive schools bags and stationary. © 2017 UNRWA Photo

11–18 April 2017| Issue 190

Highlights

  • A looming energy crisis will further undermine the delivery of basic public services in Gaza and hastens the coastal enclave becoming an unliveable place. This comes on top of cyclical conflict and a devastated economy due to an almost ten-year blockade. These factors combined contribute to the increasing desperation and lack of hope felt amongst the local population, particularly young people. In a statement issued by United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, on the electricity crisis in Gaza, he states that "the social, economic and political consequences of this impending energy crisis should not be underestimated. Palestinians in Gaza, who live in a protracted humanitarian crisis, can no longer be held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures." The Special Coordinator calls on all parties, including the international community, to come together and ensure this vital issue of energy for Gaza is resolved once and for all, stating that "the United Nations stands ready to provide its support in achieving this vital goal." The same message was communicated earlier in the week by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Mr. Robert Piper, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. “The UN has been warning for some years that the chronic problems of Gaza are accumulating to the extent that we may be approaching a tipping point at which Gaza becomes unliveable,” it quotes. 
  • UNRWA Gaza Field Education Programme distributed “dream bags” containing stationery items to 7,800 Palestine refugee students across eleven education areas in the Gaza Strip in early April. The bags were distributed to children at UNRWA schools, from grades one to three. This activity targets some of the most vulnerable students in UNRWA schools. The distribution is part of a project that aims at strengthening the relationship between Palestinian and Japanese children.
  • The Gaza Field Office Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) launched a “Gender Promotion in the Workplace” initiative during the report week. The project aims to enhance and strengthen gender mainstreaming amongst RSSP staff and within its programme of work. It also seeks to contribute to empowering more female staff through providing them with opportunities to learn and participate further in decision-making, with a view to more women occupying senior positions. The initiative now includes various activities ranging from gender-awareness sessions, distributing posters and online self-learning capacity building as well as training on different topics such as communications, problem-solving, time management and how to deal with difficult people. RSSP has also established a feedback box to receive staff suggestions and ideas. 
  • On 18 April, UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC) organized a ceremony to mark the completion of its “basic design study” of the labour market in the Gaza Strip, to support the UNRWA Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme. The event commenced with a welcoming speech and was followed by remarks from the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack. Two presentations were displayed regarding the key findings of the study and the project implementation process. The ceremony was also attended by the GTC Principal, Mr. Jamil Hamad, other UNRWA senior staff, key stakeholders, employers and managers of large factories and enterprises from different economic and entrepreneurial sectors, as well as representatives of local TVET institutions. The study analyzed and identified required skills and potential job opportunities in the Gaza labour market, particularly for youth. It also seeks to enhance the effectiveness of the UNRWA TVET. One thousand copies from the research have so far been printed and will soon be distributed to stakeholders.
  • To celebrate the end of the initiative “activate technology in education”, the UNRWA Field Education Programme (FEP) in Gaza conducted a “my game is my design” exhibition in Nuseirat Preparatory Girls School “D”, in middle Gaza. The exhibition displayed 100 products produced by UNRWA Palestine refugee students from across Gaza. The products ranged from games, educational materials and visual stories. Those on display were chosen after a panel from the FEP evaluated more than 300 products. The exhibition event included a speech for the school principal and distribution of appreciation certificates to participating students. This initiative aims at emphasizing the important role of technology in the teaching-learning process, applying a child-centred approach and encouraging creativity amongst children at UNRWA schools.
  • On 13 April, as part of its practical training for students, UNRWA Khan Younis Training Centre (KYTC), southern Gaza, in cooperation with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and participation of UNRWA emergency response team in Khan Younis, held a training exercise for 60 senior students in the emergency nursing department. This exercise was not the first of its kind, where KYTC annually implement such exercises for nursing students as part of their training semester. The simulation exercise was attended by senior staff from UNRWA education and health programmes, in addition to leaders from the local community. UNRWA’s training curricula provide theoretical and practical education to students in order to effectively prepare them for the workplace and learning to react and respond to a variety of situations. UNRWA provides this education to youth through its two 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. To date, more than 22,000 students have completed the UNRWA Technical Vocational Education and Training programme.

Operational Environment

Israeli patrol boats fired towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip on an almost daily basis, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported. On 16 April, Israeli bulldozers and tanks entered approximately 60 metres from the perimeter fence into Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. 

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. 

On 13 April, UNRWA Local Staff Union (LSU) closed all UNRWA Gaza Field Office and headquarters gates, preventing vehicle access and egress, including of executive management, between 12:00 and 13:30. 

On 14 April, three Palestinians were arrested by the de facto authorities whilst attempting to enter into Israel through the perimeter fence.

Several protests were held across the Gaza Strip regarding the 30-40 per cent cut to Palestinian Authority employee allowances, impacting salaries in Gaza. Other protests that took place included regarding the electricity situation, those in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and against the blockade. On 12 April a 20-year-old man attempted suicide by taking rat poison – this was in protest to not receiving cash assistance from the de facto authorities. He remained in a serious condition during the reporting week. 

UNRWA Response

UNRWA empowers newly appointed staff: ensures understanding of Agency rules and regulations, and knowledge of where to get information 

The UNRWA Gaza Field Office Human Resources Office (FHRO), in cooperation with Gaza Field Operations Support Office (OSO) and Gaza Field Security and Risk Management Division (FSRM) regularly conduct induction training for newly appointed staff. 

The training aims to introduce UNRWA policies, rules and regulations for new staff, to better equip them as they commence their new jobs. It also provides them with information links and sources. Topics and sessions included in the training cover performance management, payroll, allowances, transportation and movements. As well, the induction training seeks to emphasize the importance of humanitarian principles and code of conduct when working for a United Nations Agency. For example, it includes discussion on what and why there are humanitarian principles and how to commit to neutrality. 

The training includes a focus on safety and security responsibilities and obligations whilst an UNRWA staff member. Sessions are focused on incidents reporting, personal security awareness, fire safety, first aid, road safety and awareness of explosive remnants of war (ERW).

Fatema Hamdan has been working as a Human Resources Associate in the Field Human Resources Office for the past nineteen years and is one of five trainers responsible for leading in the induction training. 

“I work in the entitlements division in human resources at UNRWA Gaza, so my role in the sessions is to train and explain to new staff about their benefits, including dependency allowances, sick, annual and unpaid leaves, transportation allowances and health insurance,” Fatema said. “The training is important because the new staff don’t know anything about the agency rules and regulations.”

“To ensure that the information reach to the participants and avoid routine we use different training tools such as presentations, case studies, scenarios and targeted questions,” said trainer Huda Shabat. “To avoid mistakes during work and ensure an understanding of staff rights and responsibilities, it is important to get the right information from the right source.” 

Since 2011, the UNRWA Gaza FHRO has conducted 72 induction sessions. The total number of participants who have attended is 2,250 staff members. In addition to the induction training, FHRO publishes information on the  UNRWA Gaza staff portal, distributes printed awareness brochures. It also established a client desk two years ago, to reply to staff inquiries.

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 emergency cases only on 11 April. From 12-14 April the crossing was open for medical cases, Christians and VIPs, with National ID holders permitted to cross into Gaza on 14 April. The crossing was closed on 15-17 April, with an exception on 16 April, when National ID holders were permitted to cross into Gaza.
  • 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 12-14 April. The crossing was closed on 11 April, and also on 15-17 April for Israeli holidays.