Gaza Situation Report 193

14 May 2017
Palestine refugee children and mothers participate in the Community Mental Health Programme event ‘I have an idea’ in the Gaza Training Centre in Gaza city. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

1 May – 7 May 2017 | Issue 193

Highlights

  • Due to the continued blockade on Gaza, which entered its tenth year in mid-2016, the tiny coastal enclave suffers from a chronic electricity crisis. According to a recent factsheet issued by the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory under the name “Humanitarian Impact of the Gaza Electricity Crisis”, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) shut down after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. Gaza thus lost 60 megawatts of electricity or roughly thirty per cent of the energy normally available in the Strip. Prior to this cut, electricity available to Gaza was already less than half of the estimated requirement (210 MW provided as opposed to 450 MW demand). The current crisis has serious implications for the health, water and sanitation sectors and will have a cumulative impact on the overall humanitarian situation as mentioned by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack Op-ed entitled “A Decade of De-Development: Two Million People Denied a Human Standard of Living”. In his remarks on 4 May at the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Mr. Nickolay Mladenov warned: “As we speak we are walking into another crisis in Gaza with our eyes wide open. For the last ten years, two million people are held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures. It is time for this situation to end. For more information read Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels 4 May 2017.For more information about electricity crisis also, read the report from the Israeli organization Gisha, titled “Hand on the switch.”

  • In April 2017, UNRWA completed three projects including the construction of stainless steel tank units in 40 school buildings (which serve approximately 1,500 students each, erection of five new rub halls in Khan Younis of 240 square meters each that will be used to store non-food items such as mattresses and washing materials and construction of a 300 meter pipeline and 21 manholes to connect El-Heker school to Deir el Balah main sewerage network. This connection will improve the WASH infrastructure for 2,000 students. As of the end of April, 29 infrastructure projects worth US$ 64.9 million are under implementation while 16 projects worth US$ 24.3 million are awaiting implementation. For more detailed information on the Agency’s construction activities please consult the attached April UNRWA Construction Update.

  • UNRWA has adopted an Agency-wide gender equality policy in 2007 that commits the Agency to mainstreaming gender in all programmes. This commitment is also highlighted in the Agency’s Mid-Term Strategy (MTS). Since January 2008, UNRWA Gaza Field Office (GFO) has pioneered a programme addressing gender inequality in the Gaza Strip by promoting Palestinian women’s social and economic empowerment, ensuring that women and girls have access to recreational activities outside the home, increasing women’s income-generating opportunities and building knowledge of and means to protect women and girls from gender-based violence. The ‘Equality in Action’ Gender Initiative programme is among the largest of its kind in the Middle East and had reached over 188,347 Palestine refugees by end-2016, (89.4 per cent of which are women. The Gender Initiative was established to work for gender equality in Gaza through a participatory approach directly responding to the self-stated needs of girls and women through which appropriate targeted interventions could be pursued. Since its launch, the Gender Initiative has been implemented through a community-based approach, partnering with as many as 30 community-based organizations. The Gender Initiative includes five main projects consisting of the following components,:  Social and Recreational Spaces (SRS) aimed at providing women and girls with access to safe spaces outside their home, to engage in social networking and recreational activities; the Young Women Leaders project, which aims to close the skills gap between graduate education and labour market requirements;  the Female Headed Household project  addresses the particular vulnerabilities experienced by women heads of households, and combines training in personal skills; the Gender-based Violence  awareness raising project is aimed at equipping women, men and youth with skills to address the violence they experience at home; and the education Support Units project provides girls and boys with support to enhance and increase their educational opportunities within the official education system.

  • The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) in Gaza held an “Active Citizen” training, which aims to develop Active Citizens facilitators who are potential change agents in their community. The participants will deliver social action that is voluntary, not for profit, activity for the benefit of the community. They demonstrate their new skills in social action and support engagement with people with different perspectives. The skills are designed to be equally applicable in the workplace, the community in which they live and at home. This process seeks to improve confidence, increase value for difference, improve an understanding of local and broader communities, improve strategic thinking and increase employability. RSSP is implementing this training with partner community-based organizations. Seventy youth were trained through four modules at a three-day workshop designed to improve their awareness and skills to become more active citizens. And generate awareness of how their decisions and actions impact on others and how decisions and actions of others impact them.

  • To foster a healthy parent-child relationship while also promoting a recycling culture, the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) in Gaza held a ceremony to mark its “I have an idea” initiative, which targeted 100 Palestine refugee women and their children. The final ceremony was held at the Gaza Training Centre and was attended by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, Chief, CMHP, Mr. David Hutton, UNRWA senior staff, parents and students. During the first week of May, CMHP, in partnership with the field Education Programme, invited 100 mothers and daughter to learn various arts and crafts activities using commonly discarded materials. While promoting recycling and environmental safety, the initiative more importantly provided an opportunity enhance mothers’ skills on how best to support their children by strengthening communication skills and participatory work in an inclusive atmosphere. The initiative, which was implemented in the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired, also enabled mothers to spend quality time with their children and the opportunity to meet other mothers and form new friendships. This activity is part of UNRWA’s ongoing efforts to alleviate the emotional impacts and stress of the daily hardships faced by Palestine refugees and their families in Gaza. Through this parent-child activity, CMHP strives to provide support to children and ensure that parents understand the challenges their children face in achieving their academic and personal goals.

Shelter Update

 Activities in April 2017:

Completed cases:

  • The reconstruction of 63 totally destroyed homes was completed
  • Repair works for 145 housing units were completed

Disbursement of payments:

  • In total UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 4.9 million for shelter assistance:
    • For temporary shelter cash assistance: US$ 2.7 million for 4,492 family
    • For reconstruction: US$ 1.5 million
    • For repair works: US$ 0.7 million

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 2 May, Israeli troops positioned at the perimeter fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. On each occasion, no injuries were reported.

    On 3 and 7 May, 4 bulldozers entered approximately 50 to 70 metres in some areas in Gaza Strip, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.

    On 3 May, the journalists' syndicate in Gaza staged a sit-in in front of UNDP office, in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners who went on hunger strike in the Israeli jails. Approximately 40 persons participated in the sit-in.

    On 4 May, “Gaza Breaking the Siege Committee” staged a sit-in Gaza city, demanding an end to the siege imposed on Gaza strip and protesting against electricity crisis.

    On 6 May, Islamic Jihad Movement organized a street march which in Gaza city, in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners who went on hunger strike in the Israeli jails.

    On 7 May, “Al Ahrar Movement” organized a sit-in in Gaza to protest against the Gaza siege and the PA decision to deduct 30 per cent of Gaza Strip PA employees' salaries.

    On 8 May, “National and Islamic Factions” organized the weekly sit-in in front of ICRC office in Gaza city, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

UNRWA Response

Through its Job Creation Programme, UNRWA provides a source of hope to Palestine refugee youth amidst a devastated  economy and high unemployment rates

Norhan Abu Sharekh, a Palestine refugee and a Job Creation Programme beneficiary, working in the UNRWA Gaza Field Human Resources Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Norhan Abu Sharekh, a Palestine refugee and a Job Creation Programme beneficiary, working in the UNRWA Gaza Field Human Resources Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

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 the fourth quarter of 2016, the joblessness rate stood at an average of 40.6 per cent and of 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 61.4 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.

Due to a long waiting list, opportunities for skilled positions are offered for a maximum of three months and contracts for skilled positions are capped at six months. Only one member of a given household is eligible for a job opportunity at any one point in time. The programme priorities placing JCP employees in projects that maintain and rehabilitate public infrastructure, boost the private sector, improve environmental conditions, and target disadvantaged groups.

Palestine refugee Norhan Abu Sharekh lives with her six-member family in Gaza city. After completing her study in Business Administration, she received a six-month JCP opportunity as a human resources assistant in the UNRWA Gaza Field Office human resources office.

“After I was interviewed, I started working in the human resources office in client services four months ago. My main task is responding to phone or in-person staff inquiries. Every day my colleague and I deal with at least 80 staff inquiries,” Norhan said. “I used to volunteer at UNRWA; this is my first paid job. It is the first time I gained real work experience. I also have become more self-confident and am building my professional network.”

The programme targets both skilled and unskilled workers as well as professionals. Priority is given to applicants from households who have been assessed as living below the poverty line of less than US$ 3.87 per person per day; other criteria are gender, age, skills, or location. Overall, UNRWA aims to provide 35 per cent of skilled opportunities to women and 25 per cent of all job opportunities to youth. UNRWA also offers thousands of opportunities for recent graduates from Gaza’s universities through its Graduate Training Programme.

The human resources office is a busy department and handles all staff issues on a daily basis. Imagine I have to deal with all coming inquiries by myself, this will take more time and effort and will waste the staff time,” said Heba Mohana, Norhan’s supervisor.

“I use the salary to cover my personal fees, I also save money to complete my Master’s degree, I don’t have to depend on my family this makes me feel proud. I feel productive, as a young women when I have my own financial resource, it makes feel strong and independent,” Norhan said proudly.

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.

The JCP is one of the most effective means to support communities, inject cash into the local economy and stabilize struggling businesses. In the first quarter of 2017, UNRWA created skilled and unskilled job opportunities for 9,092 beneficiaries through the JCP, injecting US$ 4.6 million into the Gaza economy. If sufficient funding is made available, in 2017 UNRWA plans to offer short-term employment opportunities for approximately 53,193 Palestine refugees living below the poverty line – less than US$ 3.87 per person per day. UNRWA also addresses high unemployment through its Graduate Training Programme (GTP) by generating job opportunities for fresh graduates. In 2017, 2,148 graduates benefited from the GTP; overall since its inception in 2001, over 31,451 fresh graduates were awarded job opportunities.

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, except for a partial opened on 6 May just for crossing back to Gaza only from the Egyptian side.
  • Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. On 5 May it was open for medical cases only.
  • 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 during the reporting period in 1,3,4,5 and 7 May.