Gaza Situation Report 207

02 October 2017
Thirteen-year-old Shahed Shalayel, a Palestine refugee student at the UNRWA Al-Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B in Gaza city. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

05 September – 26 September 2017 | issue 207

This edition of the Gaza situation report exceptionally covers a three-week period due to the Eid Al-Adha break in early September. The next situation report will cover the period 26 September – 10 October and will be issued on 12 October.

Highlights

  • Efforts of the international community to support delivery of development assistance in Palestine continue. The bi-annual meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) took place in New York on 18 September. Chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the European Union and the United States, this 15-member committee acts as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people as well as to support the peace process and underpin efforts to realize the two-state solution. The AHLC is the only international forum where both parties participate in a dialogue with the donors and the international community, including the United Nations. Summarising the meeting, Norway’s Foreign Minister urged concerted action to make further progress in three strategic areas before the next meeting: Fiscal sustainability, economic development, and Gaza recovery. While noting the significant progress achieved on Gaza reconstruction following the 2014 conflict, he acknowledged the dire circumstances faced by the population in the coastal enclave – 1.3 million of which are Palestine refugees – calling for urgent restoration of the electricity supply to Gaza to pre-crisis level, ensuring adequate funding to address humanitarian but also recovery needs and addressing the devastating water situation in the coastal strip where 95 per cent of tap water is undrinkable. For more information, please consult the reports of the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund as well as the summary of the report of the World Bank to the AHLC.

  • Under the title “Empowering Young Girls through Sports”, UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme in cooperation with the Women’s Programme Centres and the Education Programme started a sports initiative targeting 48 Palestine refugee girls aged between 13 and 15 years. The initiative aims to strengthen the social participation of young girls through sports, reinforce their self-confidence and promote their physical and mental health. For five months, all participants will receive basketball training sessions in Rafah, Nuseirat and Deir el Balah Women Programme Centres. To support the empowerment of Palestine refugee women, facilitate the building of their networks and to strengthen their role and active participation in the community, UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Programme supports seven independent Women’s Programme Centres in the eight official refugee camps across Gaza Strip. The Women’s Programme Centres support Palestine refugee women through cultural and recreational activities. The Centres also offer a wide range of integrated services to enhance the knowledge and capabilities of women, such as skills training and education.

  • Through 22 health centres, UNRWA Field Health Programme (HP) provides primary health care services to the majority of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip. Health centres provide clinical and laboratory services, along with maternal health and family planning advice. During August, the HP provided almost 346,795 consultations and specialist services to patients, an increase of 2.69% compared to August 2016. Further, a total of 9,460 women undertook breast cancer examinations at UNRWA health centres of which 130 cases were referred to medical centres for mammograms and one case was diagnosed with breast cancer. In addition, the total number of dental consultations stood at 41,048 and health staff provided 17,446 physiotherapy patients with treatment sessions. The HP also provides home visits and mobile phone consultations for refugees unable to access health centres physically, such as antenatal or postnatal women, certain children or patients with non-communicable diseases. In August, 913 home visits and 5,405 mobile consultations were provided. UNRWA also provides services to monitor and control communicable diseases such as diarrhea, meningitis or mumps.

  • The UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) is collaborating with Nawa Culture and Arts Association to pilot a structured group intervention for elementary-level students experiencing more pronounced psychosocial difficulties. Based on Waldorf Steiner education techniques, the intervention uses structured arts, reading and storytelling, and physical play to promote a sense of normalcy and safety among younger children, strengthen self-awareness and esteem, and build positive peer relations. Ten counsellors are receiving in-depth training to enhance their knowledge and skills in supporting more vulnerable children. Based on lessons learned, CMHP is planning to roll out the intervention across other elementary schools in Gaza. CMHP maintains a network of 274 counsellors and 82 psychosocial facilitators in UNRWA schools, in addition to 22 counsellors and five legal advisors in UNRWA Health Centres. They provide a package of integrated mental health and psychosocial support interventions including life skills, structured psychosocial and guidance sessions, parent and community education, as well as individual and group counselling. These interventions remain critical in mitigating the impacts of the blockade, deteriorating socio-economic conditions, recurrent violence and restrictions on movement and access.

  • UNRWA Gaza Field Office continues to organize field visits for its partners and donors. From 17 to 19 September, a delegation from Al-Khair Foundation visited UNRWA Gaza Field Office and met with the UNRWA Deputy Director of Operations in Gaza, Ms. Melinda Young, who briefed them about the situation in the coastal enclave - under blockade for more than ten years now - and the Agency’s operations in Gaza. The delegation discussed with UNRWA school parliament members and received a briefing about the Education Programme in the UNRWA schools in the Al-Daraj area of Gaza city and learned about the activities implemented by the Community Mental Health Programme in UNRWA Jabalia Preparatory Girls School A in the northern Gaza Strip. Finally, the delegation visited Beach Camp sewage outlet in western Gaza city to understand better the environmental impact of the energy crisis in Gaza: due to electricity and fuel shortages over 108 million litres of almost totally untreated sewage are discharged into the sea off Gaza every day.

  • On 22 September, the president of UNRWA’s Central School Parliament in Gaza Karim Abdel Baset Abu Kuwaik, a 14-year-old Palestine refugee, represented more than 270,000 UNRWA students from Gaza at a conference entitled “Giving hope to Palestine refugees: New Horizons for Sustainable Funding for UNRWA." During his speech, Karim said “It is a great opportunity for me as a Palestine refugee from the Gaza Strip to stand before you. I’m speaking to you today on behalf of Gaza students who most of them have never left Gaza in their life. Please remember that we need your financial and moral support to achieve our dreams.” Karim stressed that ‘you must hear our voices’. The high-level meeting was organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Jordan and Sweden on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. During the meeting that was attended by the UNRWA Commissioner-General Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen and a number of member states of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. António Guterres, in a video message, highlighted the importance of securing sustainable funding to UNRWA due to its vital role in serving the Palestine refugee community. “My recent visit to Gaza strengthened my conviction that UNRWA’s role is critical. We must live up to our responsibility to preserve a robust UNRWA and assure Palestine refugees of our solidarity,” said Mr. Guterres during his speech. 

Operational Environment

  • On 6, 10, 11, 18, 19, 21 and 25 September, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore.  No injuries were reported, two Palestinian men were arrested.
  • On 15 September, 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 tear gas. Three injuries were 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 8, 10 and 13 September, Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.
  • On 11 September, a Palestinian patient was arrested by Israeli forces at Erez Crossing while traveling to seek medical treatment in Israel.

UNRWA Response

“No child deserves to live in darkness”

13-year-old, Shahed Shalayel, a Palestine refugee student at the UNRWA Al-Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B in Gaza city Photo credit: ©UNRWA Gaza 2017. Photo by Tamer Hamam
13-year-old, Shahed Shalayel, a Palestine refugee student at the UNRWA Al-Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B in Gaza city Photo credit: ©UNRWA Gaza 2017. Photo by Tamer Hamam

Gaza suffers from a chronic electricity crisis, presently receiving at most four hours at a time, followed by a 12 hour power-cut, which disrupts the normal functioning of infrastructure, including humanitarian infrastructure, services including health and education institutions and water and sewage systems, as well as the agricultural sector thus having a profound impact on the daily life of 1.9 million people in Gaza. Hundreds of thousands of students in Gaza face particular challenges: As a result of frequent power outages homework is interrupted and exam preparation has to be done in the dark or using unsafe sources of light such as candles.

“I was two years old when the blockade on Gaza began, now I am 13 years old. I have lived my whole life feeling its impact. After living with it for more than eleven years, it is hard to imagine my life without the daily implications of life under blockade: Yet, while I have never known what it means to have electricity all day, I will never lose hope of one day having electricity all day long,” said 13-year-old, Shahed Shalayel, a Palestine refugee student at the UNRWA Al-Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B in Gaza city.

OCHA reported in April that 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 chronically short at less than half of the estimated requirement (210 MW provided as opposed to 450 MW demand).

“I make sure I do all my homework before sunset because power goes out at night. This means I have to start studying immediately after I return home from school. I have four brothers and five sisters and we have to share one rechargeable lamp that provides poor lighting since it doesn’t get fully recharged due to the frequent power outages,” Shahed added.

Shahed also said: “The situation is different at the school where electricity from the generator is available all day. Unlike most families in Gaza, my family can afford to pay for an alternative source of electricity. But it is not a permanent or sustainable solution to use generators, rechargeable lamps or candles. No child deserves to live in darkness.”

Funding Needs

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from the deepening poverty as a result of a number of factors, including the continuing impact of the decade-long blockade, inflation of basic commodities, lack of employment opportunities and an increase in the number of registered Palestine refugees. 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. 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.

Crossing in September

Rafah

Erez

Kerem Shalom

4 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

5 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

6 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

7 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

8 Sep.

Open for pilgrims

Open for emergencies and medical cases

Closed

9 Sep.

Closed

Closed

Closed

10 Sep.

Open

Open

Open

11 Sep.

Open in one direction (for pilgrims)

Open

Open

12 Sep.

Open

Open

Open

13 Sep.

Open in one direction (for arrivals).

Open

Open

14 Sep.

Open in one direction

Open

Open in one direction

15 Sep.

Open for fuel only

Open for emergencies and medical cases

Closed

16 Sep.

Closed

Closed

Closed

17 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

18  Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

19 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

20 Sep.

Closed

Open only for pedestrians and international. Open  in one direction for Gaza ID  holders

Open

21 Sep.

Closed

Open for emergencies and medical cases

Closed

22  Sep.

Closed

Open for emergencies and medical cases

Closed

23 Sep.

Closed

Open for emergencies and medical cases

Closed

24 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

25 Sep.

Closed

Open

Open

Although outside the reporting period of this situation report, the crossing status on 4 September is included above as it was erroneously not reported in the previous situation report.

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