Gaza Situation Report 209

26 October 2017
UNRWA students during football training session. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj

10 October – 24 October 2017 | issue 209

Highlights

  • Gaza continues to suffer from the long-standing political divide between the coastal enclave and the West Bank yet recent developments provide an important opportunity for renewed dialogue and cooperation, the only opportunity seen in several years. As set out in a recent briefing by Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenča to the Security Council, in September, brokered by Egypt, it was agreed that the Palestinian Government of National Consensus should assume its responsibilities in the Strip. On 12 October, with Egyptian mediation, an agreement was signed that enables the Palestinian government to resume its responsibilities in Gaza. According to its provisions, by 1 November, the Palestinian Authority should take control of the crossings of Gaza. It is expected that the National Consensus Government should assume its full responsibilities in the management of the Gaza Strip by 1 December 2017. Separately a joint committee will be formed to resolve the issue of public sector employees that should complete its work no later than 1 February 2018. The United Nations has worked with the Palestinian leadership and the region in support of this process. It is critical that all parties seize this opportunity to provide hope to the Palestinian people as well as concrete change on the ground for the people of Gaza. The promise of political change provides a silver lining for Gaza but is not likely to lead to decreased reliance on UNRWA services in the medium-term in the absence of a full lifting of the blockade and the reinvigoration of the Gaza private sector.

  • The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) aims to empower Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. RSSP conducts a wide range of activities such as the distribution of food baskets, the regular assessment of refugees’ poverty status and eligibility for services through social workers, in addition to a variety of skills training and capacity building mainly for women, children and youth. During the month of September, RSSP social workers visited over 4,990 families across Gaza to assess their poverty status. 1,333 Social Safety Net (SSN) families (abject poor beneficiaries; those households living under US$ 1.74 per person per day) and 48,902 absolute poor families (households living below US$ 3.87 per person per day) received their food ration in the third food distribution cycle which lasts three months and during which almost one million food aid beneficiaries will pick up their quarterly ration. Further, 57 families received non-food items such as mattresses, blankets and tarpaulin. Moreover, the RSSP disability sub-programme provided 32 Palestine refugees with assistive devices. RSSP’s Social Intervention Unit – responsible for the domestic, educational, economic, medical, and psycho-social or shelter needs of the most vulnerable refugees – detected 36 new intervention cases and referred an additional 208 cases for assistance inside and outside of UNRWA. Additionally, 2,089 persons benefited from activities including vocational training and legal and psychological support through seven Women Programme Centres (WPCs) located in all five areas of the Gaza Strip. RSSP also assists other vulnerable groups such as elderly persons, children who have lost one or both parents as well as visually impaired children studying at the Agency’s Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza City.

  • Through its Job Creation Programme (JCP) UNRWA offers time-limited job opportunities to Palestine refugees in different skill categories ranging from unskilled to skilled. The JCP is one of the most effective means to provide livelihood opportunities to people in Gaza, to support communities, to inject cash into the local economy and to stabilize struggling businesses. The JCP provides not only a source of income but also restores dignity, self-respect and some level of self-reliance to thousands of Palestine refugees and their families each year. Demand for the programme remains extremely high against the backdrop of a collapsed economy and high unemployment rates with a current waiting time of over four years for a JCP opportunity. In the first nine months of 2017, UNRWA has created job opportunities for 16,515 beneficiaries through the JCP, injecting US$ 12.4 million into the Gaza economy. To address high levels of youth unemployment in Gaza, a sub-component of the JCP – the Graduate Training Programme – offered 2,799 (out of the total of 16,515 jobs) opportunities to recent graduates in 2017 to date.

  • On 18 October, the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) conducted Street Safety initiative activities at Rimal Preparatory Co-Ed School C in which 42 students participated. The Street Safety initiative was developed by the Community Mental Health Programme to teach elementary school children basic street safety knowledge and skills. This is especially important in Gaza where thousands of children cross busy streets each day to get to and from school. The Street Safety initiative has been implemented mainly by psychosocial facilitators in close partnership with school principals, teachers and parents. The initiative aims to ensure that younger children are able to use sidewalks, obey traffic lights and signs, and cross streets and intersections in a safe manner. The program also reinforces the use of seat belts when travelling in cars. The activity uses two educational sessions,  beginning with a child-friendly awareness session that uses educational video clips and a computer game to teach children appropriate street safety skills, This is followed by a Traffic City exercise in which children can practice crossing streets and intersections in a safe manner.  Children also receive a CD and a snakes and ladder board game that reinforces learning at home. To date, the initiative has been implemented in 32 UNRWA schools in Gaza City, reaching 12,500 children and 3,500 parents. The CMHP plans to continue the rollout of the Street Safety initiative across Gaza in the 2017-18 academic year.

  • UNRWA Gaza Field Office continues to receive delegations from donors and partners as well as internal parties desiring to understand the situation in Gaza and the Agency’s operations in the coastal enclave. During the reporting period, the ECHO Head of Office in Jerusalem inter alia visited a house that had suffered major damage during the last conflict but which has since been repaired and received a briefing on the UNRWA shelter response by Mr. Muin Moqat, Deputy Chief a.i., Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme. The Gaza Field Office also hosted the Agency’s new Director of its Representative Office in New York, Peter Mulrean, for an introductory visit. Mr. Mulrean visited UNRWA installations in Gaza and North governorate and was briefed on the Agency’s core services and humanitarian interventions in the Gaza Strip.

Operational Environment

  • On 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 22 and 23 October Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore.  Four fishermen were arrested and one injury was reported.
  • On 13 October, 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. Two 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 11, 15, 18, 19 and 22 October, Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. One injury was reported.
  • On 20 October an Explosive Remnant of War (ERW) accidentally exploded in Al Shoot area, southwest Rafah city. Four persons were injured.

UNRWA Response

“Sports should be for everyone”

Toqa Al-Zayan, a 13-year-old Palestine refugee, playing football in UNRWA Jabalia Preparatory Girls School C, Jabalia camp, northern Gaza Strip. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
Toqa Al-Zayan, a 13-year-old Palestine refugee, playing football in UNRWA Jabalia Preparatory Girls School C, Jabalia camp, northern Gaza Strip. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

Sport is considered a high-impact tool in humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts. According to the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), participating in sports enhances children’s life skills, including teamwork, working hard, showing respect, accepting losses and standing by each other, while providing them with a safe space for recreational activities and opportunities to participate in a cultural exchange and create new friendships. UNRWA Gaza promotes opportunities for physical activity in a constrained environment such as in Gaza which offers little space for children, especially girls, to exercise.

Toqa Al-Zayan, a 13-year-old Palestine refugee student in UNRWA Jabalia Preparatory Girls School C, Jabalia camp, northern Gaza Strip, is one of eleven girls on the school football team. The team has a training session on football skills once a week.

“I have loved football since I was a child; I used to watch it on television with my father. Sometimes he took me with him to the local sports club to watch a football match. I started to play football with my sisters, brother and cousins in the neighbourhood,” said Toqa.

By enabling girls to play football, UNRWA strives to break stereotypes and encourage sports activities for women and effectively empower women to take on a more self-confident and proactive role in the community.

“As I grew up, it was hard for me to play football in the street as we are living in a conservative society that doesn’t accept girls playing football, but I was lucky enough to find a secure and a safe place to practice my hobby: at school,” Toqa added.

Facing a general lack of extracurricular sports activities and a society skeptical about women engaging in sports, many girls risk losing the opportunity to play sports, but with encouragement from the UNRWA Education Programme, young girls have the chance and the space to practice different sports activities.

“I found myself in football. I became more confident, made new friends, improved my communications skills and enjoy my leisure time. Sports should be for everyone, not only boys. I feel proud that I’m part of a football team,” commented Toqa.

Over the school year, UNRWA supports different sports projects through which children can access recreational activities and get a chance to step away from the hardships of living in the small coastal enclave which has been under blockade for more than 10 years.

Also, this year, from 20 July to 9 August, for the first time, a girls’ team from Gaza joined the boys’ team for the Norway Football Cup and the Dana Cup, two international youth football tournaments in Norway and Denmark, after training for a year.

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

10 October

11 October

12 October

13 October

14 October

15 October

16 October

17 October

18 October

19 October

20 October

21 October

22 October

23 October

Rafah

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed

Erez

Open.

Open.

Open for urgent humanitarian and medical cases only.

Open urgent humanitarian and medical cases only.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

open urgent humanitarian and medical cases only

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Kerem Shalom

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Open.

open for entering of Cooking Gas only

Closed

Open.

Open.

Gaza continues to suffer from a long-standing political divide between the coastal enclave and the West Bank but recent developments provide an important opportunity for renewed dialogue and cooperation