Gaza Situation Report 220

29 March 2018
The World Social Work Day under the theme “Promoting Community and Environmental Sustainability” © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj.

13 March  – 27 March 2018 | issue 220

Highlights

  • On 15 March, signifcant political and financial support was expressed for UNRWA, its mandate and critical services to Palestine refugees at a Ministerial Conference in Rome entitled “Preserving Dignity and Sharing Responsibility: Mobilizing Collective Action for UNRWA”. The conference saw additional pledges to UNRWA of approximately US$ 100 million by numerous donors as part of an international effort to address the Agency’s funding shortfall, and to sustain its vital services in an unstable region. Reflecting global commitment to UNRWA and the Palestine refugees, the conference was attended by senior officials from over seventy countries, as well as international organisations partnering with UNRWA. Among the participants was also United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. With the US$ 100 million dollars' worth in pledges, the Conference has created a powerful momentum to continue to reach out to Member States (and institutions, such as the World Bank and the IDB) to fill the remaining funding gap – which now stands at US$ 173.4 million for the Agency’s Programme Budget, US$ 97.6 million for the oPt Emergency Appeal, and US$ 165.5 million for the Emergency Appeal for the Syria regional crisis - to widen the donor base and to make further progress towards sustainable and sufficient funding for UNRWA. This is essential to ensure the preservation of the education for over 525,000 UNRWA students in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza, as well as other UNRWA services and critical humanitarian assistance.

  • According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as part of the  monthly Humanitarian Bulletin published in January 2018, the shortfalls in the electricity supply continue to undermine the provision of basic services in Gaza. Piped water is reportedly supplied to households for only a few hours every four to five days. Desalination plants, which are the main source of potable water delivered primarily in water tanks, operated at less than 60 per cent of their capacity in the first quarter of 2017. An estimated 1.2 million Gaza residents have no access to running water. For those who do, up to 97 percent of the water they receive is too polluted with salt and sewage to drink, as mentioned by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale, in an op-ed published on the occasion of World Water Day on 22 March. Accordingly, less than 5 per cent of all water extracted from the Gaza aquifer meets internationally recognized drinking standards. As a result, about 90 per cent of people in Gaza have little choice but to purchase desalinated water for drinking and cooking, primarily from private water providers. Apart from the fact that the quality of this water is questionable, the cost of one cubic metre of purchased water ranges from 30-50 NIS compared with 1-1.3 NIS for water supplied through the network, significantly increasing the financial burden of Palestinians in Gaza, including the approximately one million refugees depending on various forms of humanitarian assistance.

  • On 20 March, the UNRWA Gaza Field Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) celebrated the World Social Work Day under the theme “Promoting Community and Environmental Sustainability” and in conjunction with UNRWA’s #DignityIsPriceless campaign. The programme conducted a number of activities during the month which aimed at encouraging voluntarism in the community, especially among Palestine refugee youth, as well as at raising awareness about environmental sustainability and strengthening community relations. One of the main activities was afforestation, which was done in one of the schools in Deir El Balah Camp and on Al-Maghazi Street through the planting of seedlings by youth and children with support from the RSSP and the local community.

  • On 22 March, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale, spoke at a conference organized by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) in relation to International Women’s Day. As UNRWA is one of the largest employers of Palestine refugee women in the region, empowering women and achieving gender-equality is a key commitment of UNRWA. From educating girls, providing specialized health services for women, offering counselling and other support services to GBV survivors, raising awareness of stereotypes and women’s rights to promoting young women leaders, and supporting vulnerable female headed households  - due to its sheer volume of services and people reached, UNRWA is a major factor of stability and support to women in Gaza who are disproportionately affected by the impact of ten years of blockade, including stifled economic activity, high unemployment and poverty as well as by the prevailing conservative political environment and traditional gender roles. According to Mr. Schmale, “should UNRWA’s work be further and significantly destabilized, increased poverty, stress and tension can lead people to rely on negative coping mechanisms such as physical or verbal violence, child marriage, divorce, school dropouts, and social unrest.” In closing, he called upon continued support to “ensure that the investments of decades into Gaza’s women and girls is not wasted.”

Operational Environment

  • On eight occasions during the reporting period, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.

    On 11 occasions during the reporting period, Israeli forces positioned at the border fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. One injury was reported.

    On six occasions since 12 March, 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. 16 injuries were reported.

    On 13 March, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated close to the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah while driving on Salah al-Din road near Beit Hanoun. While no injuries were reported, three cars sustained damages. Security services in Gaza, opened an investigation into the incident.

    On 14 March, a mortar shell fired from Egyptian territory landed without exploding in the western area of Rafah city, southern Gaza Strip. No injuries or damages were reported.

    On 15 and 22 March, Palestinian people stranded in Gaza staged a sit-in in front of the main entrance of the Rafah Crossing, demanding the opening of the border crossing.

    On 21 March, a Gazan detainee attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself off from the first floor of the Public Prosecution Building in Jabalia, northern Gaza Strip.

UNRWA’s Response

Comic-drawing training: helping vulnerable refugees tell their story
Artist Majdal Nateel (left) and Kholoud Al-Dali (right), a participant in the comic-drawing training organized by UNRWA’s Communications with Communities team at a community-based organization in Gaza City. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj.
Artist Majdal Nateel (left) and Kholoud Al-Dali (right), a participant in the comic-drawing training organized by UNRWA’s Communications with Communities team at a community-based organization in Gaza City. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj.

On 1 March, the UNRWA Communications with Communities team in Gaza launched its second comic-drawing workshop in cooperation with a community-based organization in Gaza City. Approximately 25 young women are participating in the training which will last for one month and focus on topics such as early marriage and gender-based violence.

26-year-old Kholoud Al-Dali, one of the participants in the training, said: “I knew about this training from my friend who attended the same training last year. She explained to me how much she enjoyed the training and how much it helped her to express herself. The great thing about comic-drawing is that you don’t have to be a great artist to express your ideas. You only need a story and basic knowledge about drawing.”

Comic-drawing is a form of story-telling through which UNRWA attempts to empower youth to advocate for change and support within their community and beyond. After the completion of the training, UNRWA will publish the drawings on social media to make them available to a local and global audience.

The comic-drawing workshop is taught by the Gaza artist Majdal Nateel. At the end of March, each participant will have completed 14 training sessions focusing on basic drawing skills – such as how to express different emotions – and on how to write a script and tell a story by using only a few words. Through the drawings, the participants address various issues relevant to their daily lives as girls and women in Gaza, such as the importance to them of education and political participation, as well as issues pertaining to early marriage and their current and desired roles in the community. Next month, another 25 female will participate in the training.

“I find comic drawing an easy way to express myself. In a few words and with a simple drawing I manage to explain a big idea which is of importance to me. I will also recommend it to others,” Kholoud said.

Communications with Communities (CwC) is a two-way dialogue between communities and humanitarian organizations. It should enable the communities to meet their different needs, address their vulnerabilities and build on their pre-existing capacities. With the comic-drawing workshop, the UNRWA combines CwC with Communications for Development which is a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods. Through such initiatives, UNRWA seeks to empower individual Palestine refugees and their communities and to enhance their voices through dialogue, consultation and participation.

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

13 March

14 March

15 March

16 March

17 March

18 March

19 March

20 March

21 March

22 March

23 March

24 March

25 March

26 March

Rafah

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

closed for people, while it was open for fuel.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Closed

Erez

Open.

Open.

Open.

open for urgent humanitarian and medical cases only

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

open for humanitarian cases only

Closed.

Open.

Open

Kerem Shalom

Open.

Open.

Open.

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