Gaza Situation Report 210

10 November 2017
The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, speaks at a graduation ceremony for students who have completed various technical and vocational training tracks at the Agency’s Gaza Training Centre. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

24 October – 07 November | Issue 210


  • With great gratitude and respect, UNRWA bids farewell to its Director of Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack. A long-standing senior humanitarian aid and development professional, Mr. Schack utilized his extensive experience to steer UNRWA operations in Gaza during what has been a highly challenging period for the Agency with regards to its funding situation. The UNRWA Gaza Field Office thanks Mr. Schack for his dedication and strong leadership in support of Palestine refugees in Gaza.   Mr. Matthias Schmale assumed his role as new Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza at the beginning of October. Keen to engage with UNRWA beneficiaries and staff, he has since met with all UNRWA senior staff and conducted his first official field visit to several UNRWA schools in Gaza city where he was briefed about UNRWA education services by the Chief of the Education Programme, Mr. Farid Abu Athra. During a subsequent field visit to Rafah, organized by the Chief of the Rafah Area Office, Mr. Mohammad Al-Shikh Ali, he met with UNRWA school parliamentarians, teachers, parents’ councils and popular refugees committees’ representatives. During these meetings, UNRWA interlocutors expressed their views about the annual class formation exercise and the quality of education in Gaza. Mr. Schmale also visited several UNRWA health centres where he was briefed on UNRWA primary health services by the Chief of the Health Programme, Ms. Ghada Al-Jadba.  
  • The UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC) organized a graduation ceremony to celebrate the creativity and innovation of its students who have completed various technical and vocational training courses. The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale, attended the event, together with other senior UNRWA staff, and addressed the 1,246 graduates and their parents. The ceremony included speeches by the Principal of the GTC, Mr. Jamil Hamad, as well as graduates. In addition, samples of the students’ projects were presented, and students performed the traditional Dabka dance and songs before they were awarded their graduation certificates. The GTC is part of the UNRWA Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme, offering 39 courses of technical and vocational training to Palestine refugee youth in Gaza. Since its establishment in 1953, over 23,000 young Gaza refugees have graduated from the centre. The training provides students with opportunities to develop themselves and their skills to find employment or become an entrepreneur, thereby improving their livelihoods.
  • From 29 October to 9 November 2017, the Relief and Social Services Programme through its Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza city conducts an initiative under the name “By Communications, We Live Up”. The initiative consists of 16 outreach activities aimed at raising awareness in the community about the rights and specific needs of visually impaired persons, as well as about how to better integrate them in society and communicate with them and their families. The initiative takes place across the Gaza Strip, reaching around 200 persons, including UNRWA staff, visually impaired students, parents and community members.  The RCVI is part of the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) and offers educational and rehabilitation activities for visually impaired children between the age of 4 and 12 years; including those children in the kindergarten. It is the only centre in Gaza providing these types of services to a total of 501 students. Through the RCVI, UNRWA contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 10 by ensuring quality education and working towards reducing inequalities. On 29 October, the RCVI celebrated its 55th anniversary in the presence of the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale, Deputy of Director of UNRWA Operations for Programmes, Ms. Melinda Young, RSSP management and RCVI staff and pupils. The celebration included short speeches by UNRWA senior staff as well as performances by students, highlighting the achievements of the RCVI and significance of continuous support to the centre and its students and staff.
  • To increase traffic safety and raise awareness on accidents occurring on Salah El Din road – one of the main roads spanning the entire length of  Gaza – UNRWA students from grade four to nine from the Gaza central Gaza organized a public awareness activity next to an UNRWA school located near the same road. They were supported by the UNRWA Chief Area Officer of the Gaza Middle Area, UNRWA education staff, parents’ councils, community leaders, as well as the police and representatives from ministries. In the past, high speed and a lack of possibilities to cross the road in a safe manner have led to accidents, resulting in the death of two UNRWA students and a major injury leading to the disability of one student. About 500 persons participated in the activity, urging the authorities to implement measures for people to safely cross the road.
  • UNRWA continues to implement infrastructure and construction projects that address some of the most pressing human development needs in the Gaza Strip. A total of 22 infrastructure projects worth US$ 52.4 million are under implementation while 16 projects worth US$ 23.1 million are currently awaiting implementation. In October, UNRWA imported 48 trucks of construction materials included on the list of dual-use items such as cement, white cement, steel pipes, steel reinforcement bars, raw materials and elevators for ongoing UNRWA infrastructure projects. 

Shelter Update (Activities in October 2017)

In October 2017, UNRWA completed the reconstruction of 151 totally destroyed. It also finalized repair works for 41 housing units.

UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 5.3 million for shelter assistance, including US$ 3,688,308 for reconstruction, US$ 157,593 for repair works, and US$1,464,279 for temporary shelter cash assistance. 

Operational Environment

  • An important milestone in the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas was reached when border crossings were handed over on November 1.  Expectations continue to be high, and it is important that the population soon sees visible signs of progress on the ground such as improved electricity supplies and easing of travelling opportunities.
  • On 25 and 27 October, and on 4 and 6 November, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. One injury was reported. Two fisherpersons were arrested and their boats have been confiscated.
  • On 27 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. Four 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 25 and 26 October, and on 2, 4, 5 and 6 November, Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.
  • On 2 November, a Palestinian woman attempted to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. The reason behind the incident is still unclear.
  • On 3 November, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) accidentally exploded inside a house in El-Nafaq area, east of Gaza city. One injury was reported.

UNRWA Response

UNRWA Gender Initiative Creates Social and Recreational Spaces for Women and Girls

24-year-old Soad Hadido, a participant in the Gender Initiative’s Social and Recreational Spaces for Women and Girls project, presents a mirror she embroidered at an exhibition organized by the Gender Initiative. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Hussein Jaber
24-year-old Soad Hadido, a participant in the Gender Initiative’s Social and Recreational Spaces for Women and Girls project, presents a mirror she embroidered at an exhibition organized by the Gender Initiative. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Hussein Jaber

The UNRWA Gender Initiative (GI) strives to improve the capacity of women and girls in Gaza to exercise freedom of choice, take advantage of opportunities for personal and professional development and to address inequality in all aspects of life. Under its ‘Social and Recreational Spaces for Women and Girls in the Gaza Strip’ project, the GI cooperates with 30 Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) across the Gaza Strip to provide women and girls with safe spaces in which they can socialize and access recreational and development activities to promote women’s right to equal participation in public life.

Soad Hadido, a 24-year-old Palestine refugee, is one of the participants in the project at the Daraj Women Programme Centre.“I couldn’t go to college because my family couldn’t afford it, so I used to stay at home and do nothing. I felt unproductive until I participated in the Social and Recreational Spaces for Women and Girls project at the Daraj Women Programme Centre. I spent the best three months there; I learned many great things, developed new relationships and made new friends,” said Soad.

The core activities of this project, which has been implemented since 2008, are Arabic and English literacy courses, arts and drama workshops, book clubs, IT training, and physical health activities. Besides these activities, the CBOs are also seen as friendly and safe spaces for women, many of whom feel empowered by doing activities outside their home, establishing networks, participating in public life and taking matters into their own hands.

“Before taking the course, I didn’t even know how to turn on the computer. Now I can make presentations and use Microsoft Office programs. I used to say ‘yes’ to everything I was asked to do. Now, I am strong, I negotiate and I learned to say ‘no’,” said Soad.

On 31 October, the UNRWA GI in partnership with CBOs opened an exhibition showcasing products produced by women as part of Social and Recreational Spaces for Women and Girls project. The exhibition displayed a wide array of products including embroidery, wool products, crochet, woodwork, mosaics, drawing on glass, and ceramics.

“During the course, I also took embroidery classes. I feel proud to introduce my products to the local community and interact with the customers,” Soad added. 

The GI includes five main projects: Social and Recreational Spaces 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, which addresses the particular vulnerabilities experienced by women heads of households, and combines training in personal skills; the Gender-based Violence awareness raising project aimed at equipping women, men and youth with skills to address the violence they experience at home; and the Education Support Units project, which provides girls and boys with support to enhance and increase their educational opportunities within the official education system.

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. Read more in the oPt Emergency Appeal for 2017. 


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.

Gaza Situation Report 210 - Crossings Table