Gaza Situation Report 206

17 September 2017
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, meets UNRWA Central School Parliament students. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

21 August – 04 September 2017 | issue 206

 Highlights

  • The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, visited the Gaza Strip on 30 August, joined by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, and UNRWA Commissioner-General Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl. At UNRWA Beit Lahiya Prep Girls school, north Gaza, Mr. Guterres addressed UN staff working in Gaza noting the difficulties that United Nations staff face while fulfilling their crucial role providing vital services and assistance to the people of Gaza. To listen to the voices of Palestine refugees in Gaza, Mr. Guterres met with the UNRWA Central School Parliament and with families benefitting from UNRWA services. During his first visit to Gaza as UN Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres deplored witnessing “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I have seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations”. The UNRWA Commissioner-General Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl and senior UNRWA staff returned to Gaza from 5-9 September for meetings with Field management. The Commissioner-General also visited different UNRWA installations including Rafah Preparatory Girls School, Rafah Preparatory Boys School, the Japanese Health Centre and a sanitation office and met with  Palestine refugee families to understand the situation on the ground and the plight of Gaza residents.

  • On 1 September, Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, as well as Muslims around the world, celebrated Eid Al-Adha, marking the end of the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. As part of UNRWA’s efforts to help mitigate the food insecurity among refugee families in Gaza and enable them to celebrate Eid at a time of increasing poverty levels in Gaza, UNRWA distributed 896 live sheep to 2,688 poor Palestine refugee families on 29 and 30 August 2017. The distribution took place in seven UNRWA Distribution Centres, and targeted Social Safety Net beneficiaries (those households who live on less than US$ 1.74 per person per day) in Gaza, where one sheep is shared between three refugee families. Today, over 80 per cent of the population in the Gaza Strip relies on humanitarian assistance to be able to cover their basic needs, such as food, basic education, basic health care or shelter. The blockade on the coastal enclave, now in its eleventh year, continues to cause severe socio-economic and psychosocial distress for too many people in Gaza. There is an overall decrease in economic access to food in Gaza as a result of increased unemployment, high food prices and extreme volatility of the economy.

  • On 21 and 22 August, the UNRWA Gaza Field Communications Office in coordination with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) conducted the “Lifeline Communications” training. Attended by 22 UNRWA staff drawn from the Communications Office, Area Chief Offices and Front Office, the training aimed to build the participants’ capacities to communicate with affected communities, engage in two-way dialogue and ensure proper application of humanitarian and protection principles. During the two-day training, the trainers from Oxfam, UNICEF and media outlets worked with participants to develop lifeline communications messages, defined as communications that is timely, clear, actionable,  positive and two-way in addition to being for people not about them. The trainers used different training techniques including role play, scenarios, questions and discussions to engage participants and illustrate the significance, diversity and challenges of communications with affected communities. In early 2017, BBC Media Action delivered a Lifeline Training of Trainers (ToT) to UN agencies, humanitarian organizations and media outlets in Gaza equipping participants to deliver the Lifeline course for media or humanitarian colleagues. Lifeline programming is specific media programming for communities affected by humanitarian crises. It aims to provide people with timely, relevant and practical information to alleviate their suffering and assist with their recovery. Lifeline programming also aims to give affected people the opportunity to voice their concerns, express their needs, share their stories and hold humanitarian aid providers to account.

  • On 30 August, the UNRWA Gaza Field Office Gender Initiative ‘Equality in Action’ Programme organized an Entrepreneur Day, which aimed to support future women entrepreneurs. Five women presented their business plans to an advisory committee composed of representatives from UNRWA Microfinance and Micro-Enterprise Department (MMD), a local bank and local small enterprise association. The committee commented on the women's presentations assessing the strengths of their plans as well as providing advice for future improvements and potential sources of funding. The Entrepreneur Day is a part of the ‘Empowerment Programme for Female-Heads of Households’ project, which aims to equip women who are the breadwinners in their families with skills relevant to income generation through micro-enterprises. The programme aims at countering the hardship and poverty often experienced by female heads of households in the Gaza Strip by providing them with skills to improve their own situation and connecting women with their peers.

  • 257 UNRWA schools in Gaza participated in the Arab Reading Challenge initiative, a competition first launched in September 2015 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. In total, 45,283 Palestine refugee students participated and 13, 283 students read 50 books. Every school nominated the best three students, measured by the student’s knowledge and comprehension of books and ability to think critically, who were then honoured and rewarded in a local celebration. 63 students from UNRWA schools who were the top five in each educational area were rewarded at a later stage. The UNRWA Education Programme has cooperated in arranging for the final competition and celebration at which the three finalists from UNRWA and public schools were announced by the Minister of Education in the presence of other competitors and their families. The Arab Reading Challenge is an Arab project aiming to encourage learning, raise awareness of the importance of reading and promote the Arabic language among students. UNRWA TV has produced several videos about the Arab Reading Challenge - watch them here.

  • In Aug 2017, UNRWA completed six projects including the construction of a Rubb Hall in Deir El Balah. The structure will facilitate the warehousing of emergency goods and equipment, ensure access to goods especially during times of conflict and enhance the safety of staff and beneficiaries. Further, the construction of two schools which will serve around 2000 students and the construction of 50 shading sheds which will protect protection from the weather were completed. UNRWA also finalized the construction of 11 generator rooms in UNRWA schools throughout the Gaza Strip benefitting approx. 11,000 Palestine refugee students in addition to a cold store for medicines. In August, 22 infrastructure projects worth US$ 52.4million were under implementation while 16 projects worth US$ 23.1million were awaiting implementation.

Shelter update

Activities in July 2017:

Completed cases:

  • The reconstruction of 42 totally destroyed homes was completed.
  • Repair works for 244 housing units were completed.

Disbursement of payments

  • In total UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 4.9 million for shelter assistance:
    • For reconstruction: US$ 3,860,810
    • For repair works: US$ 957,861
    • For TSCA: US$ 79,609

Operational Environment

  • On 21, 23, 27 and 29 August, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore.  No injuries were reported.
  • On 25 August, civilians, mostly youth, staged protests against the blockade near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. One injury was reported.
  • Other protests were held during the week, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to demand additional support from UNRWA and other UN agencies.
  • On 23 and 24 August, Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. One injury was reported.
  • A Palestinian man attempted to commit suicide by ingesting large quantities of drugs in Rafah area.

UNRWA Response

Lifeline Communications can save lives

Part of the ‘Lifeline Communications’ training organized by the Gaza Field Communications Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
Part of the ‘Lifeline Communications’ training organized by the Gaza Field Communications Office. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

Communication helps to meet the information and communications needs of people affected by crises. Through the Gaza Field Communications Office, UNRWA provides Palestine refugees with access to the information they need and ensures their voices are heard and taken into account in decision-making processes related to the provision of humanitarian services.

On 21 and 22 August, the UNRWA Gaza Field Communications Office, in coordination with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), conducted the “Lifeline Communications” training, a programme that aims to provide people with timely, relevant and practical information to alleviate their suffering and assist with their recovery. It was attended by 22 UNRWA staff from the Communications Office, Area Chief Offices and Front Office.

“The training provided me with many insights; I learned how communications, and providing the right information at the right time through the right channel, can save lives. Further, the training supports our work in UNRWA TV where we produce and broadcast videos which can change people’s lives,” commented 38-year-old Ahmed Al-Waheidi, UNRWA TV and multimedia manager, who was one of the trainees.

The training, delivered by trainers from Oxfam, UNICEF and local media outlets, aimed to build the participants’ capacities to communicate with affected communities, engage in two-way dialogue and ensure proper application of humanitarian and protection principles. During the two-day training, participants learned how to develop lifeline communications messages and deliver them through a variety of effective and efficient channels.

“The part I enjoyed the most was practicing the scenarios and using songs as a communications tool. The training helped me share and exchange experience with others. We are now more prepared to develop Lifeline Communications messages in line with the humanitarian and protection principles of neutrality, humanity and do-no-harm. Effective communication is an essential part of the humanitarian services UNRWA provides,” added Ahmed.

Lifeline communications should be timely, clear, actionable, positive and two-way, and the communications for people not about them. In the lifeline communication, the audience should be in the heart of the communications to ensure their voices heard.

In early 2017, BBC Media Action delivered Lifeline Training of Trainers (ToT) to UN agencies, humanitarian organizations and media outlets equipping participants to deliver the Lifeline course for media or humanitarian colleagues. Lifeline programming is specific media programming for communities affected by humanitarian crises. Lifeline programming also aims to give affected people the opportunity to voice their concerns, express their needs, share their stories and hold humanitarian aid providers to account.

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$ 295 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$ 425 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

21 Aug

22 Aug

23 Aug

24 Aug

25 Aug

26 Aug

27 Aug

28 Aug

29 Aug

30 Aug

31 Aug

1 Sep

2 Sep

3 Sep

Rafah

Closed

Closed

Closed

Closed

Open

Open

Closed

Open

Open

Closed

Closed

Closed

Closed

Closed

Erez

Open

Open

Open.

Open

Open for emergency and medical cases

Closed

open

Open

Open

Open

Open

Open for emergency and medical cases

Closed

Open

Kerem Shalom

Open

Open

Open

Open

Closed

Closed

Open

Open

Open

Open

Open

Closed

Closed

Closed

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