10 August 2014 | Issue No. 33
- Hostilities continue. Albeit currently at a lower intensity than during the days prior to the 72-hours ceasefire, the uncertain status of the negotiations in Cairo makes it difficult to predict how the military operation will unfold and how to plan for UNRWA humanitarian and core operations. For example, due to movement restrictions, UNMAS stopped unexploded ordnance clearance of UNRWA installations, thus delaying the start of damage assessments by UNRWA engineers. Also, with continued hostilities and damage to property across the Gaza Strip, UNRWA engineers cannot assess the damage to homes, which again has an impact on support to families who have lost everything. The cumulative number of housing units destroyed or severely damaged is estimated at over 10,800, which is 70 per cent higher than the damage incurred during the 2008/9 military operation. The number of houses that sustained light or substantial damage (but still inhabitable) is estimated at 36,700. The level of destruction is unprecedented.
- Mass displacement continues. Within two days, the IDP numbers climbed from 166,527 to 238,097 IDPs in 90 UNRWA shelters, renewing concerns over the conditions in the schools which are not designed to provide for a long term shelter. One new shelter had to be opened in the Middle Area (Maghazi). UNRWA and WFP staff continued to work round the clock so that all displaced were provided with food and water. Palestinians know that, with the previous shelling to the Agency’s schools, there is no such as a safe haven in Gaza, and there is nowhere safe to go as the tiny coastal enclave is effectively sealed off. It was reported that some Palestinians, previously sheltered in UNRWA schools and currently undergoing medical treatment, refuse to leave the hospital as they fear renewed shelling to the UNRWA schools.
- As every single family is affected by the war, displaced or sheltering an unknown number of displaced, some 3 – 6 hours electricity per day and with very little or no water supply, UNRWA and WFP are planning to undertake an exceptional food distribution starting as of tomorrow 11 August 2014 to somewhat stabilize the situation. This will also help families to cope with the increasing food prices. Everyone not currently receiving food aid from UNRWA and WFP will be eligible to receive a 30 kg flour bag to prepare the traditional ‘pita’ bread, and a 10 kg rice bag. This exceptional food ration to 143,000 families – about 730,000 individuals – will be distributed through UNRWA’s 12 food distribution centers. This distribution presents a massive challenge to all staff, as it requires careful planning in terms of logistics, security, communication and protection. UNRWA and WFP together are regularly providing food aid to over 1 million Palestinians in Gaza. The number of Palestine refugees coming to UNRWA for food aid has increased from less than 80,000 in 2000 to over 830,000 today as Gazans are trapped in a cycle of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency because of the Israeli blockade. Since the start of hostilities, UNRWA is continuing to provide its regular food aid through all open UNRWA distribution centers 6 days a week, with the 7th day required to stock up food supplies in the centers. In addition, UNRWA and WFP are providing daily food rations to Palestinians sheltered in UNRWA and government schools.
According to UN information, the cumulative death toll among Palestinians stands at 1,948, with 9 additional fatalities reported, including three boys, one girl and two women. As of 10 August 2014, and according to information provided by the Ministry of Health, the cumulative number of injured has reached 9,875. The death toll on the Israeli side stands at 67, including 64 soldiers, three civilians and one foreign national.
Past 24 hours: On Saturday, an Israeli official said that negotiators would not return to Cairo until the ceasefire agreement was renewed. It was initially reported the Palestinian delegation would not leave Cairo until a renewed ceasefire agreement was reached, but then later on Saturday night it was said the delegation would also leave unless Israel agreed to return to the Egypt mediated negotiations. Egypt reportedly focused on getting the Palestinian delegation to agree to a ceasefire, with the key issues – the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, the reopening of its seaport, airport and border crossings – unresolved and to be discussed after a ceasefire was reached. It was reported Israel had offered to ease some restrictions to the blockade, but concessions fell far short of Palestinian demands. Reportedly, Israel offered to expand the fishing area from 6 to 12 nautical miles, which is still less than what was agreed in the Oslo accords, to ease restrictions on transfer of goods to the West Bank and exports abroad, and increase the number of permits for Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank via the only functional border crossing, Erez.
Similar Israeli concessions made in the November 2012 ceasefire agreement were subsequently temporarily revoked in response to rocket fire from Gaza, including the extension of the fishing limit. Overall, after the easing of the blockade in 2010 with UN agencies allowed to import construction materials, there has been no significant relaxation of the Israeli blockade.
Bassema Ghanem, one of about 100 UNRWA Community Mental Health Counselors,
who provides daily psychological and psychosocial support to Gaza’s displaced.
UNRWA counselors provide psychological first aid, orientation and advice to parents, and individual counseling to those that suffer from psychological distress. Counselors also engage in psychosocial activities with children, which include playing, relaxation and meditation exercises, drawing and storytelling.
Bassema Ghanem is one of UNRWA counselors working to help the displaced children. She says: “Our main goal is to provide them with a sense of safety and security so that they feel protected”, which is a challenging undertaking given the attacks on UNRWA schools. Even small children know there is nowhere safe to go in the entire Gaza Strip, and nobody can leave. “As counselors, we have noticed serious behavioral changes in children, such as aggression, anger, nervousness and restlessness. Children cannot sleep or fall asleep only to wake up screaming in the middle of the night, clinging to their parents.” Bassema explains that drawing has a particularly positive effect on children. “I noticed that many of the children tend to draw houses, trees and flowers, reflecting their hope to return to a home and to have a future”, she says.
Since the beginning of the crisis, UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme has served over 91,000 parents and engaged over 100,000 children in recreational activities. UNRWA partner organizations, including the Sharek Youth Forum, provided further support to over 14,000 adults and almost 80,000 children.
- Over the reporting period, UNRWA delivered 31 truckloads of non food items (blankets and cleaning supplies) as well as 59 truckloads of food to shelters in cooperation with WFP. Despite the significant increase in IDPs, nobody went hungry in UNRWA shelters thanks to staff working around the clock. UNRWA also distributed non food items to community based rehabilitation centers and to the displaced staying in Shifa Hospital, the main hospital in Gaza City.
- In cooperation with partners and donors, UNRWA continued to distribute potable and non-potable water to 90 UNRWA emergency shelters. With the increase in IDP numbers, water needs are on the rise again, and UNRWA is working to increase service providers to meet the escalating needs. Over the reporting period, 570 cubic meters of potable water were trucked to UNRWA shelters, excluding donations of bottled water to shelters where no sufficient water supply was provided through trucks. 777 cubic meters of non-potable water was trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the UNRWA shelters. Some shelters benefit from UNRWA wells and municipal water sources. Most of Gaza’s households reportedly have no water supply, or receive water for a few hours every five days.
- As reported yesterday, the launch of UNRWA’s hygiene and water campaign was impeded by the resumption in hostilities. As of this morning, posters on water conservation, appropriate hygiene practices and treatment of scabies and lice were put up on the walls in all shelters, including in toilets and water points. Thirty volunteer graduate students will start today to train water and environment focal points at shelters and UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme workers. This team will then select and train hygiene and water committees, including on local monitoring of tap water use. The campaign serves to ensure that IDPs are aware of and take responsibility for helping to promote clean shelters and prevent major health issues.
- 14 of 21 health centers were operating. 79 per cent of the staff reported to work, and 21,934 patients were served. There is a remarkable 39 percent increase in patients coming from shelters compared to Thursday 7 August.
- UNRWA’s food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. Food rations were provided to 3,096 families through UNRWA distribution centers.
- UNRWA also continued to provide its logistics capacity to supply fuel to municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities through the WASH and Health clusters (led by UNICEF and WHO). 1,000 liters were delivered to UNICEF for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU).
- Of UNRWA’s Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Department, 280 staff, representing 83 per cent of the permanent sanitation staff, reported to work. Together with 364 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 391 tonnes of waste from all Gaza camps. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations, including plumbing and electrical works in shelters.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
Reportedly, there were 29 rockets fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 77 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza in addition to 25 navy shells. 45 tank shells were fired into populated areas.
UNRWA estimates that 97 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014. Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification.
More information on the revised flash appeal can be found here.
- The Rafah crossing was open for foreign passport holders and wounded Palestinians.
- The Erez crossing was closed.
- The Kerem Shalom crossing was closed.