Gaza Situation Report 216

18 February 2018
© UNRWA Gaza 2018. Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj

16 January – 30 January 2018 | issue 216

Highlights

  • On 22 January, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl launched the global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless from a school in Gaza, surrounded by UNRWA students and staff,  The aim of the campaign is to mobilise sufficient resources to ensure continuity of services to over five million Palestine refugees in the Middle East following the US announcement of a dramatic reduction in long-standing funding to the Agency.  As part of this campaign, UNRWA is aiming to raise US$ 500 million. At risk is the access to education and perspectives for the future for more than half a million girls and boys in over 700 UNRWA schools across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and their future; the provision of emergency assistance to 1.7 million extremely vulnerable Palestine refugees; access of refugees to primary health care, including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. And at stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community that has endured nearly 70 years of injustice and uncertainty. At stake are also decades of investment by the international community in the human development of Palestine refugees and efforts to achieving the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals.

  • The Education Programme in Gaza is UNRWA’s largest programme. On 20 January,  271,900 UNRWA students (140,347 boys and 131,553 girls) started their second school semester. In the scholastic year 2017-2018, 8,733 dedicated UNRWA teachers, who are guided by 261 school principals and 270 deputy school principals, provided   education for Palestine refugee students in 275 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip. Notwithstanding the fragile political situation, lack of infrastructure and increasing financial constraints, providing quality, equitable and inclusive education remains of utmost priority for UNRWA and is one of the Agency’s strategic outcomes identified in the Medium-Term Strategy for the 2016-2021 period. 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.

  • On a quarterly basis, UNRWA provides two categories of food baskets to all eligible refugee families to help them meet their basic food requirements under two categories: An absolute food ration is distributed to households that are living below US$ 3.87 per person per day while a Social Safety Net ration is allocated to households persisting below US$1.47 per person per day. In both cases, the food baskets contain quantities of wheat flour, rice, sunflower oil, sugar, dried milk, lentils and chickpeas. In 2017, UNRWA distributed in-kind food assistance to over 993,045 beneficiaries during four distribution rounds. In order to define Palestine refugees’ eligibility for emergency food assistance, UNRWA social workers from the Relief and Social Services Programme assessed refugee families’ poverty levels through 91,444 home visits in 2017.

  • In 2017, UNRWA in Gaza created – largely with Emergency Appeal funding - job opportunities for more than 19,690 people through the Job Creation Programme (JCP), thereby injecting more than US$ 15.77 million into the local economy. Of the total jobs, approximately one third were awarded to women and over 4,991 to young adults between 18 and 26 years of age. Given the worsening socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip, the Agency has increased its JCP, from 17,060 opportunities in 2013 to 32,000 jobs in 2015. Due to lack of funding, the number of offered job opportunities decreased to around 21,000 in 2016 and fell below 20,000 in 2017.  In addition to the thousands of jobs generated through the JCP, the Agency through its infrastructure projects generated 8,923 full-time job equivalents (FTEs) in the construction sector. In total, this contributed to reducing unemployment in Gaza by 5.6 percentage points. UNRWA also seeks to address Gaza’s exceptionally high levels of youth unemployment through its Graduate Training Programme (GTP). In 2017, out of the total JCP opportunities provided, around 3,323 graduates benefited from the GTP opportunities. Overall since its inception in 2001, over 32,600 fresh graduates were awarded with temporary job opportunities.

  • UNRWA in Gaza employs 176 doctors and 327 nurses who provide quality primary health care in 22 health centres (HCs) across the Gaza Strip, serving over one million patients on a quarterly basis. The incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension is on the rise in Gaza. While the UNRWA Gaza Field has the highest number of NCD patients Agency-wide, with a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of cases in 2017 compared to 2016, it maintains the lowest treatment cost per capita across the five fields of operations. In 2017 a total of 103,310 individuals were screened for diabetes and hypertension.  In July 2017, the Agency, in cooperation with WHO, intensified efforts to integrate mental health and psychosocial support within its primary health care services. By the end of last year, thirteen HCs had completed this transition. The Health Programme in Gaza is planning to complete the integration in all HCs by the end of May 2018.  Furthermore, in 2017, UNRWA in Gaza registered over 28,000 new enrolments in its pre-conception care programme. This figure is higher compared to the year 2016 (20,000) and exceeds the Agency-wide target of 20,000 new enrolments. 98.7 per cent of pregnant women made four antenatal care visits to UNRWA Health centres and 99.9 per cent of women attended post-natal care appointments within six weeks of delivery. The number of active family planning cases is gradually increasing with over 81,204 active cases in 2017.

  • 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 13 infrastructure projects worth US$ 44.87 million are under implementation while 20 projects worth US$ 29.17 million are currently awaiting implementation. In January, UNRWA imported 41 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.

The UNRWA Shelter Update

Activities in January 2017:

Completed cases:

  • The reconstruction of 159 totally destroyed homes was completed.

Disbursement of payments

  • In total UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 3.7 million for shelter assistance:
    • For reconstruction: US$ 3,750,053

Operational Environment

On 29 January, the Local Staff Union (LSU) organized a solidarity walk in support of UNRWA’s global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless. The employees walked from the UNRWA office in Gaza City to the UNSCO office to hand over a letter addressed to the President of the General Assembly expressing concern about funding reductions and their potential impact. Approximately 9,000 persons participated in the solidarity walk. Describing UNRWA as one of “the most effective and results-orientated public service organisations in the world”. Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, warned of the potential implications of underfunding UNRWA and of politicising humanitarian aid for millions of impoverished people. “By turning out in such huge numbers and peacefully, you are giving a powerful message to the world," he told the crowd. While people stayed away from work for a few hours, UNRWA worked to ensure that essential services were maintained.

On 20, 21, 22 and 27 January, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.

On 18, 21, 25, 26 and 28 January Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.

On 16, 19, 22, 25 and 26 January, civilians, mostly youth, staged protests against the US President’s decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem 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. 12 injuries were reported.

On 23 January, the UNRWA Local Staff Union in Gaza, in response to a call by the Inter staff Union Conference, organized a one-hour stand-in in solidarity with UNRWA and in protest against the US’ decision to reduce its financial support to UNRWA. 

On 23, 24 and 25 January, Palestinian civilians held a sit-in in front of Rafah Crossing, southeast of Rafah area, demanding the opening of the border crossing.

UNRWA’s Response

Islam during fundraising campaign:
“Help Keep our schools open”
14-year-old Palestine refugee student Islam Barbakh giving a speech during the launch of  UNRWA’s global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless.. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj.
14-year-old Palestine refugee student Islam Barbakh giving a speech during the launch of UNRWA’s global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless.. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj.

As reported above, On 22 January, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl launched the global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless From Gaza.  Delivering a speech at the event, 14-year-old Islam Barbakh, a Palestine refugee student and member of the school parliament at the UNRWA Amal Preparatory Girls’ School in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, said:“Yes, this campaign #DignityIsPriceless is our campaign. We are determined students, and I call on students in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin and North America, as well as in the Middle East to echo our appeals for support. Help keep our UNRWA schools open.”

“Both my parents received their education at UNRWA schools years ago. Likewise my sisters and I study at UNRWA schools. Without UNRWA, I don’t know how we will receive our education. UNRWA supports us to achieve one of our essential rights which is education,” Islam explained, adding that “education means future; it’s our tool for development.”

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.

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. The recent announcement by its largest donor, the United States, to drastically reduce its funding to 60 million USD in 2018 presents the Agency with a significant challenge in delivering its essential services in a predictable manner. 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.

On 30 January, UNRWA launched its Emergency Appeal to address humanitarian needs in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2018. The emergency programmes and the associated budget are separate from the Agency’s regular requirements to support core services provided by the Agency.  As presented in its Emergency Appeal 2018, the Agency is seeking US$ 398.8 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt. The Gaza portion of the Emergency Appeal amounts to US$ 354 million.

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 travelers, 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 travelers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.

Crossing

16 Jan

17 Jan

18 Jan

19 Jan

20 Jan

21 Jan

22 Jan

23 Jan

24 Jan

25 Jan

26 Jan

27 Jan

28 Jan

29Jan.

Rafah

partially opened for fuel only

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

partially opened for fuel only

Closed.

Closed.

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.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Closed.

UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees