Gaza Situation Report 214

08 January 2018
Students in UNRWA school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarajj

19 December – 02 January 2018 | Issue 214 

Highlights

  • The blockade of the Gaza Strip has entailed tight control over all aspects of life since 2007, severely restricting the movement of people as well as goods. These restrictions limit the opportunities for people living in Gaza to realize basic human rights and development standards, including the realisation of the right to health. Years of socioeconomic decline, conflict and blockade have left the health sector across the Gaza Strip lacking adequate physical infrastructure and sufficient medical training opportunities for health staff. Facilities are overstretched, and service is frequently interrupted by power cuts. According to the World Health Organization, 55% of 2,017 patient applications for a permit to exit Gaza through the Erez checkpoint for hospital appointments during the month of October 2017 were approved; 2% were denied including for three children and two elderly patients; and 43% were pending and lost their hospital appointments including 164 children and 82 elderly. One patient was arrested while crossing Erez to access health care.

  • Storm weather conditions during the winter months, including heavy rain, can create floods in the streets of the Gaza Strip due to poor and overcrowded urban infrastructure that cannot handle the rate and volume of water. In partnership with the UNRWA logistics team, the UNRWA Area Offices in Gaza’s five areas – Northern Gaza, Gaza, Middle Area, Khan Younis and Rafah – are therefore implementing emergency response measures during the winter months, involving UNRWA frontline staff from all programmes. UNRWA commenced the distribution of NFIs such as tarpaulin, blankets, mattresses, heaters and other items for displaced and other vulnerable Palestine refugees as part of the Agency’s annual winterization campaign. Through the campaign, over 5,837 refugees across the Gaza Strip received one tarpaulin sheet and a 30 square metres nylon sheet.

  • On 24 December, 136,944 UNRWA students in Gaza (grade 5 to 9) began taking their 2017/18 first semester final tests in all subjects. The exam period lasted for eight days, and there were three versions of every test to accommodate morning, afternoon and third shift students. All exams are school-based in terms of observation, marking and data entry. Students started their mid-year vacation immediately after the last test. 133,469 URWA students from grades 1 to 4 continued their school hours in order to be directly assessed by their teachers according to the new performance and competency-based assessment and evaluation criteria. In the beginning of the second semester, exam certificates will be distributed to students. The Education Programme in Gaza is UNRWA’s largest programme, and UNRWA sees education as a major investment into the dignity and human development of Palestine refugees. Providing quality, equitable and inclusive education is one of the Agency’s strategic outcomes, as identified in the current Medium-Term Strategy 2016-2021. Through its education programme UNRWA contributes to achieving the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the fourth goal which calls for ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.

  • A Long Service Award ceremony was organised by the UNRWA Human Resources department in Gaza on December 19 in recognition and appreciation for UNRWA staff who have completed 25 and 40 years of service within the Agency. The ceremony was held at the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza city in presence of the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, along with Chiefs of Programmes and other UNRWA senior staff. The ceremony included speeches by Head Field Human Resources in Gaza, Jonathan Porter, Matthias Schmale, Deputy Chief Gaza Area Officer Mumen Shahin and Vice Chair of the Local Staff Union Amal Batch. Following the speeches, appreciation certificates signed by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl were handed to the honoured staff. Since its establishment in 1949, Palestine refugees importantly contributed to fulfilling UNRWA’s mandate to provide assistance and protection to Palestine refugees in its five fields of operations. Over the years, thousands of employees dedicated their lifetimes to the service of Palestine refugees in the fields of education, health and social services. UNRWA takes this opportunity to pay tribute to all its staff members.

  • 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 14 infrastructure projects worth US$ 45.5 million are under implementation while 17 projects worth US$ 21.3 million are currently awaiting implementation. In December, UNRWA imported 57 trucks of construction materials included on the list of dual-use items such as cement, white cement, steel reinforcement bars, raw materials for ongoing UNRWA infrastructure projects.

Shelter Update

Activities in December 2017:

Completed cases:

  • The reconstruction of 63 totally destroyed homes was completed.
  • Repair works for 223 housing units were completed.

Disbursement of payments

  • In total UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 1.65 million for shelter assistance:
    • For reconstruction: US$ 237,652
    • For repair works: US$ 119,407
    • For TSCA: US$ 1,303,105

Operational Environment

  • On 19, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29 and 31 December, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported. Two fishermen were arrested.
  • On 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31 December and 1 January, Israeli forces positioned at the border fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.
  • On 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27 and 29 December, Palestinian civilians, mostly youth, staged protests near the perimeter fence in different areas of the Gaza Strip protesting against the United States president’s decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. Three deaths and 155 injuries were reported.
  • On 21, 29 and 30 December, Israeli Forces fired missiles targeting militants training locations across the Gaza Strip in response to mortar shells fired by militants. No injuries were reported.
  • On 18 December, a 20-year-old Palestinian man committed suicide by hanging himself inside his house in Khan Younis city.
  • On 30 December, a partial commercial strike was conducted in Khan Younis city, southern Gaza Strip protesting against the bad economic situation in Gaza strip.

UNRWA Response

UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme:
Enhancing psycho-social resilience and well-being
38-year-old Mahmoud Al-Najjar, a school counsellor at UNRWA Beach Preparatory Boys School in Gaza city. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj
38-year-old Mahmoud Al-Najjar, a school counsellor at UNRWA Beach Preparatory Boys School in Gaza city. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

The summer 2014 hostilities had a devastating psychosocial impact on individuals and communities in Gaza, adding to the effect already felt from almost ten years of blockade and recurrent conflict. The shock of losing a home and family members and of returning to neighbourhoods to find them destroyed can contribute to eroding any sense of certainty and hope in the future. The unprecedented human, social and physical devastation during the 2014 conflict had a particular impact on children and many are still in need of psycho-social support. According to the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP), children exposed to violence often express a loss of trust in others. Other common symptoms are eating disorders, nightmares or intense fear.

38-year-old Mahmoud Al-Najjar has been working as a school counsellor at Beach Preparatory Boys School in eastern Gaza city for over fifteen years.“Due to the blockade and recurrent conflict, children in Gaza suffer from many psychological problems such as nightmares, aggressive behaviour, low academic achievement and social withdrawal. Through UNRWA school counselling, we provide psycho-social support to help children deal with these problems,” said Mahmoud.

CMHP counsellors play a critical role in supporting Palestine refugees of all ages. The CMHP in Gaza currently maintains a network of 274 counsellors and 82 psycho-social facilitators in UNRWA schools supported by a team of supervisors and assistant supervisors, as well as a Senior Mental Health Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) Specialist. The programme also employs a counsellor in each of the Agency’s 22 health centres with five legal advisors working across UNRWA health centres in Gaza. They collectively support children and adults not only through individual and group counselling, but also through other structured interventions aimed at enhancing psycho-social resilience and well-being.

“Through my work, I conduct group counselling, but when the case needs in-depth intervention, I use individual counselling. In many cases, I work closely with the parents. I also use a variety of tools including drama, songs, drawing and games to help the students manage their stress and painful memories. In addition to counselling, I provide life skills sessions in time management, problem-solving, communication skills and decisions making,” added Mahmoud.

Over the past years, the CMHP has moved towards the Mental Health Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) model to provide a more holistic and integrated approach that extends beyond counselling. Counsellors help ensure that the children of Gaza are equipped with skills to succeed in life, working closely with teachers to reinforce problem-solving, interpersonal relationships, support for their peers, respect and tolerance for others, and self-care and stress management. In UNRWA health centres, CMHP psychosocial and legal counsellors provide comprehensive support to mainly women, many of whom have experienced Gender-Based Violence (GBV), through individual counselling, group support, and relevant legal advice.

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 2018. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

Following the 2014 conflict, US$ 316 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$ 404 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 reconstruction of their demolished 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 1.8 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

19 Dec.

20 Dec.

21 Dec.

22 Dec.

23 Dec.

24 Dec.

25 Dec.

26 Dec.

27 Dec.

28 Dec.

29 Dec.

30Dec.

31 Dec.

1 Jan.

Rafah

Open

Closed

Closed

Closed

Closed.

Closed

Closed

Closed

Open

Closed

Closed

Closed

Closed

 

 

  Closed

Erez

Open

Open

Open

Open for urgent humanitarian and medical cases only

Closed.

Open

Open

Open.

Open

Open

Open for urgent humanitarian and medical cases only

Closed

Open

Open

Kerem Shalom

Open

Open

Open

Open

Closed.

Open

Open

Open

Open

Open

Closed

Closed

Open

Open

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