Gaza Situation Report 200

06 July 2017
Women employed through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme pack cleaning materials. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

20 June – 04 July 2017 | Issue 200

Highlights

  • The interest of UNRWA’s partners in the situation in Gaza remains high exemplified by the visit of a Japanese delegation led by His Excellency Mr. Tomita Koji, Ambassador of Japan to Israel. to the coastal enclave on 3 July. The delegation received a briefing by the Acting Deputy Chief, Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme, Mr. Muin Moqat, on the UNRWA shelter programme addressing residential repair and reconstruction needs in the wake of the destruction wrought during the 2014 hostilities. Accompanied by the Chief, Field Health Programme, Dr. Ghada Al-Jadba, the delegation visited Saftawi Health Centre in north Gaza, one of 22 Health Centres the Agency runs in the Gaza Strip providing quality primary health care to 1.3 million Palestine refugees in the coastal enclave. At Saftawi, the delegation also received a briefing on the operational context in the Gaza Strip – characterized by blockade and recurrent escalations of violence – by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack. On average, UNRWA receives approximately 70 delegation visits annually ranging from technical visits by the Agency’s donors to visits by journalists and partners to high-level ministerial visits.

  • With the aim of developing leadership skills among youth in Gaza and enhancing their self-reliance, the Japan Gaza Innovation Challenge initiative (JGIC) announced the launch of the second Gaza Entrepreneur Challenge. The contest, which is implemented in partnership with UNRWA, aims to empower youth leaders in Gaza, foster their ability to create change through entrepreneurship and improve the means of livelihood in Gaza, particularly for young people. Contestants are required to develop a project for “life improvement” in Gaza. As in the previous year, the two winning teams will be rewarded a prize of US$ 5,000, along with technical support to start their business as well as other opportunities. In 2016, two teams tied in first place, the “Green Cake” project, which developed an environmentally-friendly bricks mixture by adding coal ashes and the “Sketch Engineering” project which presented a solution for carrying heavy weights upstairs: a three-wheel stair climber that facilitates the movement of persons with disabilities upstairs as well as heavy loads in general. The initiative aligns well with UNRWA’s objective to increase livelihood opportunities. Through different interventions, UNRWA supports livelihood development aiming to mitigate the difficulties and hardships created by the dire socio-economic context in the Gaza Strip. The blockade on Gaza - which entered its eleventh year in June 2017 - along with the repeated cycles of armed conflict have crippled the enclave’s economic sector and pushed a large part of the population into unemployment and poverty.

  • The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) promotes the development and self-reliance of vulnerable Palestine refugees – including persons with disabilities, women, children and the elderly – through interventions in Gaza. In May 2017, RSSP continued with the second round of food distribution this year providing food assistance to more than 477,396 refugees (a total of 979,332 individuals served by UNRWA throughout the entire distribution cycle January - March 2017). In addition, in the same month, RSSP distributed non-food items such as mattresses, gas stoves, or blankets, to 36,356 persons and 9,040 families were visited as part of the Poverty Assessment Survey (PAS) to assess their eligibility for food assistance. Through its Social Intervention Units (SIC) - addressing the domestic, educational, economic, medical, and psycho-social or shelter needs of the most vulnerable refugees - RSSP detected and recorded 37 new social intervention cases and referred 249 other cases to service providers inside and outside of UNRWA to receive assistance. Further, the RSSP Disability Programme, in cooperation with local non-government organizations, provided 74 persons with disabilities with assistive devices. Through its hundreds of front line staff, RSSP also plays a crucial role in UNRWA’s accountability to and participation of beneficiaries via collecting and responding to feedback and suggestions on its services, from Palestine refugees in Gaza.

  • Seven years ago UNRWA established Area Offices in all five governorates in the Gaza Strip, headed by a Chief of Area Office (CAO). CAOs have an UNRWA representative function at the area level. They liaise with governmental authorities, refugee community representatives and humanitarian organizations on the general application of Agency policies and programmes, as well as other issues of interest to the Agency such as the security situation as it affects UNRWA operations, and any incidents affecting the humanitarian situation of Palestine refugees. In pursuit of these objectives, the CAO Middle Area, Mr. Mohmmed Reyati and his team cooperated with the humanitarian aid agency Mercy Corps and the municipality of Maghazi on a project aiming to provide potable water to Maghazi camp. Funded by Mercy Corps the project plans to install a 12-cubic-metre-per-hour desalination plant to provide each of the about 30,000 refugee in Maghazi camp with three litres of potable water per day. The potable water produced by this plant will amount to 90,000 litres per day. Residents of Maghazi Camp will receive this water through about 20 outlet points distributed throughout the camp. Using its strong relationships with the community and network in Maghazi camp, UNRWA facilitated community participation in the identification of the location of the 20 outlet points through outreach and workshops. Further, the Area Office helped the Civil Defense putting out a major fire that broke out in a plastic factory in the Middle Area through provision of water using UNRWA water trucks, normally used to provide UNRWA installations with of the quantities of water needed on a daily basis. 

Operational Environment

On almost all days in the reporting period Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) positioned at the security fence in different locations opened fire towards Palestinian areas on two days during the reporting period. No injuries were reported.

Civilians, mostly youth, staged protests near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza against the blockade. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. Five injuries were reported.

Fire break out inside a plastic factory in the industrial zone, east of Dier El Balah. No injuries were reported.

Several accidents in private homes took place in Khan Younis, the Middle Area and Gaza. One woman died and three injuries were reported.

A sit- in organized by the Ministry of Health in front of Al-Shifa hospital against Palestinian Authority policy, the banning of medication into Gaza and banning patients to leave Gaza.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) arrested a Palestinian man who crossed into Israel from east of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip.

A sit- in organized by Palestinians in front of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to demand a quick opening of the crossing.

The Israeli Air Force fired several missiles towards an open area and military sites in several locations across Gaza. No injuries were reported.

Palestinian military group fired a rocket from east of the middle area toward open area in Israel. No injuries or damages were reported.

Four Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozers entered approximately 100 meters from east Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip.

UNRWA Response

“Finally I can run my own business”

39-year-old Hanan Ahmed checking new dress models on her laptop in her dress shop in Gaza City. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
39-year-old Hanan Ahmed checking new dress models on her laptop in her dress shop in Gaza City. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj

Hanan Ahmed is a 39-year-old Palestine refugee who lives with her family of six in Gaza city. She has been a client of the UNRWA Microfinance Programme in Gaza for more than three years. In 2014, she got her first loan to start her own business, a dress shop, and has by now received five loans.

“Life in Gaza is hard and expensive. My husband - whose income is limited - and I work hard to meet the needs of our family and provide a better life for our four daughters,” Hanan said.

Thanks to the loans, Hanan managed to scale up her business renting a bigger place and buying new supplies. Hanan believes that this step of scaling up the business enabled her to improve the livelihood of her family, have better control over working hours and build up her independence.

“I knew about the UNRWA Microfinance Programme from a friend who received a loan from it and started his own business. For seven years, I used to work in a clothes shop. After gaining enough experience, I used my savings and the loan I got from the Microfinance Programme to start my own dress shop. It felt like a dream come true to finally run my own business,” Hanan added.

Against the backdrop of ongoing blockade and high unemployment rates, it is important that Hanan is not only a business owner but also an employer: her business provides several jobs for young people in Gaza. “I believe that this programme doesn’t only empower its clients - it helps other people as well. I now have three people who work with me and contribute to enhancing the living conditions of their families which are affected by the many challenges of live in Gaza,” Hanan commented. 

Through its field Microfinance Programme, UNRWA in Gaza helps address the needs of the entrepreneurial and unbanked sector of the community, including low-income Palestine refugees. In the first quarter of 2017, between January and March, the programme disbursed 1,344 loans worth more than US$1.9 million. It also provided fresh graduates, university students and professionals with a variety of technical training opportunities, including sessions on job hunting, project management and gender awareness. During the same quarter, the Microfinance Programme conducted at a total of 31 courses for 598 participants. Almost 41 per cent of participants were women, and 54 per cent were youth aged less than 30 years. UNRWA launched the microfinance initiative in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in the early 1990s and expanded operations to Syria and Jordan in 2003. Since 1991, the Programme in Gaza has issued almost 120,000 loans worth more than US$154 million.

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. More information can be found here.

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.

Crossing

20 June

21June

22 June

23 June

24 June

25 June

26 June

27 June

28 June

29 June

30 June

1 July

2 July

3 July

Rafah

Closed

Open for fuel trucks only

Open for fuel trucks only

Open for fuel trucks only.

Open for fuel trucks only

closed

closed

closed

closed

closed

Open for fuel trucks only.

closed

closed

closed

Erez

open

open

open

Open for emergency and medical cases.

closed

open

open

open

open

open

Open for emergency and medical cases.

closed

open

open

Kerem Shalom

open

open

open

Open for fuel and cooking gas only.

closed

closed

closed

open

open

open

closed

closed

open

open

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Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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