Gaza Situation Report 219

16 March 2018
© UNRWA Gaza 2018. Photo by Khalil Adwan

27 February – 13 March 2018 | issues 219 

Highlights

  • On 15 March, an extraordinary high-level conference – co-hosted by Sweden and Jordan and chaired by the UN Secretary-General - will take place in Rome to address UNRWA’s current and unprecedented funding crisis. On 12 March, in the run-up to this conference and in line with the #DignityIsPriceless campaign, over 5,300 students from 275 schools across the Gaza Strip together with other UNRWA students in Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Lebanon flew blue kites to send a message to the international community that they would like their right to education to be protected. On 22 January, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl had launched the global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless to mobilize the international community to actively support a collective response to protect the rights and dignity of Palestinian Refugees. As part of this campaign, the social media initiative #GazaOnTheBrink was launched to further highlight the dire humanitarian situation for Palestine refugees in Gaza after 11 years of a land, sea and air blockade. Watch the story of Qusai and Uday, two Palestine refugee children from Gaza, which illustrates the role that UNRWA plays to bring hope, dignity, and life-saving services to hundreds of thousands of people.

  • The blockade on Gaza will enter its 12th year in June 2018. The heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza have not only crushed the enclave’s originally trade-based economy, they are also responsible for high and increasing levels of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity and contribute to widespread feelings of depression, hopelessness and confinement, particularly among Gaza’s youth. In addition, the blockade creates high additional costs for humanitarian organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, reducing already scarce financial means for humanitarian interventions: in 2017 alone, additional staffing, transit and logistical costs resulting from Israeli requirements regarding access and monitoring of all UNRWA imports into the Gaza Strip amounted to almost US$ 8.49 million. The US$ 8.49 million does not include similar access costs that private contractors have incurred for shipping construction materials into Gaza through Kerem Shalom under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). Such additional costs have also impacted the Agency’s cash assistance for self-help repair and reconstruction interventions under the GRM. The US$ 8.49 million also excludes inflation (as projects are delayed prices increase and thus UNRWA is required to either downscale a project or request additional funding from a donor), as well as the price UNRWA and its staff are paying vis-à-vis the Agency’s credibility among the Gazan community, from beneficiaries to contractors, and among the donor community.

  • For the seventh anniversary of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to hit Japan, messages of continued empathy and solidarity are sent out from Gaza. Over 1,000 Palestine refugee students from four UNRWA schools located in the area of the Khan Younis Training Centre (KYTC) in Khan Younis gathered to fly kites in commemoration of the disaster that killed more than 15,891 people and caused immense damage. In addition, a live Skype connection was held between UNRWA students and Japanese students, allowing for an exchange of experiences in their daily lives as well as their hopes for the future. The seventh annual kite-flying event in Khan Younis highlights the strong ties between the Japanese people and Palestine refugees in Gaza and reminds of both people’s strength and resilience.

  • On 8 March, International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated globally under the theme “Time is now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. The theme highlights empowering women in all settings, rural and urban, as well as the activists who are working relentlessly to promote women’s rights and opportunities for women to realize their full potential. Based on this theme, the UNRWA Gender Initiative organized four panel discussion with Community-Based Organizations across the Gaza Strip to discuss women’s rights and access to justice as well as specific challenges such as in the agricultural sector in Gaza. In addition, the UNRWA Education Programme in Gaza will organize a range of activities at the Gaza Training Centre, including a drawing competition, music and dance, as well as a solidarity march of some 300 female students from UNRWA schools and UNRWA staff.

  • 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 awaiting implementation. In February, UNRWA imported 31 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.

The UNRWA Shelter Update

Activities in February 2018:

Completed cases:

  • The reconstruction of 59 totally destroyed homes was completed.

Disbursement of payments

  • In total, UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 2.80 million for shelter assistance:
    • For reconstruction: US$ 2,684,179
    • For repair: US$ 98,743

Operational Environment

  • Between 1 and 12 March, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip on 10 occasions, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.

    On 27 February and five occasions in early March, Israeli forces positioned at the border fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injury and one person killed were reported.

    During the reporting period, on five occasions, 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. 19 injuries and one fatality were reported.

    On 1 March, a 16-year-old Palestinian male was moderately injured in Gaza city as a result of the explosion of unexploded ordinance (ERW).

    On 9 March, a 15-year-old Palestinian male attempted to commit suicide by poisoning himself with overdose drug due, in the Beach camp.

UNRWA’s Response

UNRWA students call for international solidarity to protect their right to education
Students flying kites at the UNRWA Al-Rimal Preparatory Girls Co-ed School “B”. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan.
Students flying kites at the UNRWA Al-Rimal Preparatory Girls Co-ed School “B”. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan.

On 15 March, an extraordinary high-level conference – co-hosted by Sweden and Jordan and chaired by the UN Secretary-General - will take place in Rome to address UNRWA’s current and unprecedented funding crisis. On 12 March, in the run-up to this conference and in line with the #DignityIsPriceless Campaign, 5,300 students in 175 schools across the Gaza Strip in parallel with other UNRWA students from Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Syria flew blue kites send a message to the international community that they would like their right to education to be protected.

12-year-old, Hala Hijazi, one of the 80 students participating in the event in Al-Rimal Preparatory Girls Co-ed School, said; ”Today, I join my fellow students from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the West Bank to remind the international community of our basic right to education and that our dignity deserves to be protected. We want to keep studying and learning.” Hala also expressed hope that “people around the world will help protect our right to go to school.” Nour Shihata, another student added: “I dream to be a doctor in the future, but how can I achieve my dream without education?”

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, and directly 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 US$ 60 million 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’s emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding arrangements. Prioritised needs in Gaza in relation to the 2018 oPt Emergency Appeal include US$ 80 million for the distribution of emergency food parcels to almost 1 million people, at least US$ 10 million for creating temporary cash-for-work opportunities through UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme as well as US$ 7 million for the Agency’s Community Mental Health Programme. Furthermore, 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.

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 the Israeli authorities and technically allows for the movement of aid workers and a limited number 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

27 Feb

28 Feb

1 March

2 March

3 March

4 March

5 March

6 March

7 March

8 March

9 March

10 March

11 March

12 March

Rafah

Closed.

Closed.

Open for truckloads of diesel fuel only.

Open for truckloads of diesel fuel only.

Closed.

Closed.

Open for truckloads of diesel fuel only.

Closed.

Closed.

Open for truckloads of diesel fuel only

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 for fuel only.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

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