Gaza Situation Report 47

24 August 2014
Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA Archives

24 August 2014 | Issue No. 47

Highlights

  • There is no safe place in Gaza. The bombardment of populated areas continues day and night, with the IDF sending messages through leaflets, phone calls or mobile phone texts warning civilians to stay away from terrorists and terror infrastructure as the IDF will continue their attacks. Last night, the IDF carried out several strikes including on Rafah in Southern Gaza where a commercial center, located less than 30 meters away from an UNRWA school serving as a shelter, was completely destroyed. The IDF phone calls received by residents in the neighbourhood and by UNRWA staff were just minutes prior to the attack, causing major panic amongst the shelter population. Past midnight, all 1,416 displaced self-evacuated to another UNRWA school. In another incident, a 14-storey residential building in Gaza City, the Al Zafer Tower 4 located about 350 meters away from the UNRWA compound, was struck twice at about 19:10 and was completely destroyed. The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with some 4,700 inhabitants per square kilometer. With the Gaza Strip effectively sealed off, removing the option of fleeing the costal enclave, and the East side of the Gaza Strip (former buffer zone) severely damaged and scattered with unexploded ordnance, the continuous offensive to the West of the former buffer zone will leave people with simply nowhere to go.
  • According to preliminary information recorded by the Protection Cluster, the cumulative death toll among Palestinians stands at 2,062. 1,450 – 70 per cent – are believed to be civilians, including 482 children and 250 women.
  • School bells were ringing this morning at 07:00 in all 85 UNRWA emergency shelters in Gaza to mark what should have been the first day of school. This was a reminder to everyone that, despite the war, every child in Gaza has the right to education. “Whilst we cannot commence school in a traditional sense today, we want all people in Gaza, especially the refugees we serve, to know that we will not allow any child to miss out on school, no matter how dire the circumstances might become,” said Mr. Scott Anderson, Deputy Director of Operations for UNRWA in Gaza, who attended one of the 85 ceremonies in a school in Beach Camp. “We also know that students and educators need time to adjust, to reflect and to be ready to learn again, even as the war continues. Our revised approach allows for all of that.” The symbolic assemblies in all shelters included singing the national anthem, reading messages by staff and students and various activities.
  • Education in Gaza was at a crisis point even prior to the current emergency. The ongoing conflict has seen at least 79 UNRWA schools damaged, and 85 functioning as shelters, where the Agency is currently sheltering 292,959 people, including about 75,000 school-aged children between 6 and 14. As the first component of its education plan, UNRWA is working with the Ministry of Education and other partners to expand psychosocial interventions over the next few weeks, which are already part of the Agency’s emergency response activities. It will also teach children about maintaining their health and personal safety, including raising awareness of unexploded ordnances. These activities will be followed by a second phase which focuses on active learning, and the key skills and concepts of core school subjects, which can be implemented even with the continued hosting of displaced persons in the UNRWA schools. The third transition will be a return to quality education in school buildings, where UNRWA expects to educate more than 230,000 students.
  • UNRWA support to providing access to education for children in conflict zones is an established practice. The Agency has its own satellite television channel, UNRWA TV, specifically designed to run education programs for children who are unable to attend traditional schools, such as in Syria and Gaza, and also complements regular schooling. Whilst a transition into the school year will help students to continue their education, longer term interventions in Gaza are also essential. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has prevented much needed new schools from being built and if it is not lifted at the conclusion of the war, it will impair reconstruction efforts. Throughout the 2013/14 school year, in more than 245 UNRWA operated schools across the Gaza Strip, more than 230,000 students were given the opportunity to realize their full potential through a curriculum that covers subjects such as Arabic, English, mathematics, science and social studies. There is also a dedicated Human Rights Programme in all UNRWA schools, grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and focused on promoting tolerance and conflict resolution. Most UNRWA schools are run on a double-shift basis, with one school in the morning and one in the afternoon, as the Agency only has 156 school buildings.
  • The Agency’s Monitoring and Evaluation Team has undertaken a monitoring exercise of its shelters to provide more detailed data on the access and quality of key UNRWA services, including shelter provision, food, water, health and protection concerns. To date, all designated emergency shelters have been surveyed. Special emphasis has been given to health and hygiene. Findings have already contributed to Gaza-wide service improvements such as increased private space for women in shelters, stabilization of standardized potable water testing for all water deliveries, and improved service delivery to severely disabled IPDs.
  • For a third time, the Agency is revising the projections of assistance needed in the coming weeks and the funding required to respond appropriately. The revised Flash Appeal seeks support to provide food, non-food items (NFIs), primary health care, psychosocial support, and emergency education activities, to refugees and non-refugees alike in the designated emergency shelters.

GENERAL

Past 24 hours: There are still no indications the escalation will come to an end anytime soon.

UNRWA RESPONSE

  • UNRWA delivered 7 truckloads of non food items (including cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items) as well as 72 truckloads of food to shelters in cooperation with WFP.
  • In partnership with WFP and the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNRWA continued the exceptional food distribution to all families not currently receiving regular food aid from the two agencies. Since 11 August 94,305 of the eligible 143,000 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice, representing 66 per cent of the total eligible families. On 24 August, 5,002 rations were distributed yesterday in 9 out of 12 UNRWA distribution centres.
  • UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distributions to the shelters. 1,128 cubic metres of potable water were trucked, excluding 24,720 litres of bottled water distributed in the North and Middle Area as there are  insufficient suppliers available. Despite the increase in IDP numbers, UNRWA was able to reach on average 3.4 litres per person a day (excluding the bottled water), but further displacement poses challenges in meeting minimum water requirements particularly in the North, Gaza and Khan Younis. In addition to drinking water, 967 cubic metres of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the shelters. All designated emergency shelters are connected either to the municipality network, to a water well, or both. However, these sources do not provide sufficient amounts of water for the population in the schools. Vital water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged, leaving at least (and likely more) 40 per cent of the water supply network unusable. With the resumption of violence, repairs will be very difficult, and further damage is expected. The lack of reliable and regular electricity – as Gaza’s sole power plant cannot operate due to damage sustained in the conflict – makes the provision of water unreliable and dependant on the provision of fuel to run the stand-by generators.
  • Despite substantive improvements over the past week, the ever growing numbers of IDPs in shelters presents a massive challenge to the Agency. UNRWA’s hygiene and water campaign continues in the Agency’s designated emergency shelters, with 137 IDP committees (including at minimum 2 women, 2 men and 4 youth of which two girls and two boys) established with  1,314 members. Hygiene focal points and facilitators have organized 697 awareness sessions among 36,291 IDPs focusing on cleanliness, usage of cleaning materials, best practices in water use, how to keep food from being contaminated and how to treat lice and scabies. 725 persons have been referred to the dedicated medical focal points deployed in the schools. In Rafah and the North, some schools have experienced internal conflicts among IDPs and hence the hygiene campaign was put on hold. The campaign is supported by posters in all shelters. With prolonged displacement, posters made of durable material are being put up on the walls in all shelters, including in toilets and water points, informing residents about water conservation, appropriate hygiene practices and the treatment of scabies and lice.  The deteriorating security situation, however, largely prevents movement of staff working on the campaign.
  • Under its Community Mental Health Program (CMHP), 95 UNRWA counselors reported to the shelters on 23 August. So far the CMHP has provided 17,535 sessions encompassing mental health awareness, psychosocial support covering 146,731 parents and recreational and animation activities to 165,911 children. CMHP also coordinated and supervised the implementation of 4,267 sessions by other partners covering 22,210 adult IDPs and 115,420 children.
  • Of UNRWA’s Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Department, 276 staff, representing 82 per cent of the permanent sanitation staff, reported to work. Together with 379 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 369 tonnes of waste from all Gaza camps. The 11 water wells in Jabalia Camp (6), Beach Camp (3), Khan Younis Camp (1) and Rafah (1) supplied a total of 11,665 cubic meters of water. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations.
  • 14 of 21 health centers were operating. 80 per cent of the staff reported to work, and 17,304 patients were served on 24 August.

SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS

Reportedly, there were 89 rockets and 24 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 170 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza in addition to 40 navy shells. 105 tank shells were fired from the fence into populated areas. Reportedly, 23 houses were bombarded.

UNRWA INSTALLATIONS

Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 109 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014. Two UNRWA schools in Deir el Balah and Rafah, which were previously damaged during the war, sustained additional damages. One of the schools serves as a designated emergency shelter.

FUNDING NEEDS

More information on the revised flash appeal can be found here.

CROSSINGS

  • The Rafah crossing was open.
  • The Erez crossing was closed. 
  • The Kerem Shalom crossing was closed.