Gaza Situation Report 69

13 November 2014
Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA Archives

04 November – 11 November | Issue 69 


Highlights

  • 18 UNRWA school buildings continue to serve as Collective Centres for approximately 27,163 internally displaced persons (IDPs).  
  • Two high-level delegations visited the Gaza Strip during the reporting period. On 8 November, the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini met with UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Pierre Krähenbühl in Gaza. Ms. Mogherini and her delegation also spent time with IDP families residing at Bahrain Boys Prep School – one of UNRWA’s 18 Collective Centres. A joint EU and UNRWA press conference was also held at the school, where according to media reports, Ms. Mogherini called for the establishment of a Palestinian state, saying the world "cannot afford" another war in Gaza. The EU is a long standing regional partner of UNRWA, and in June this year, an agreement was signed for EU contributions to the UNRWA General Fund in 2014-2016 in the amount of EUR 246 million (USD 335 million). Contributions from the EU and other General Fund donor governments allow UNRWA to provide essential education, health, relief and social services to some of the most disadvantaged communities in the Middle East. 
  • On 5 November, the Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Martin Lidegaard visited the Gaza Strip to see first-hand the destruction wrought by the summer’s conflict and hear about the long-term financial, humanitarian and political support necessary to help the people of Gaza rebuild. Minister Lidegaard and the Danish delegation drove through the devastated Shejayeh neighbourhood and visited the UNRWA Collective Centre at Zaitoun Prep Girls’ School in Gaza Area, which currently hosts 1,642 IDPs. Minister Lidegaard expressed support for UNRWA from the Government of Denmark and announced a donation of US$ 4.2 million to support Gaza, of which US$ 3.4 million will go to UNRWA. Financial contributions, attention and support such as this remain critical to families in Gaza being able to rebuild their lives, particularly with the winter approaching. 
  • Tuesday 11 November marked a significant day in the Palestinian calendar - ten years since the death of Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). On Sunday 9 November it was reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had canceled a commemoration rally planned in Gaza. The decision is widely seen as a setback to the National Consensus Government ruling Gaza. The decision to cancel the rally was reportedly made based on security concerns two days after several explosions outside political leaders’ houses. 
  • According to media reports, a number of Palestinian doctors and patients held a protest at the Rafah Crossing in southern Gaza on 6 November, requesting that Egypt reopen the crossing to allow people out for medical treatment. The crossing was closed by Egyptian authorities on 24 October, after an attack in the northern Egyptian City of Al Arish by unknown perpetrators, which claimed the lives of more than 30 Egyptian military personnel. 
  • During the reporting period, the most critical interventions for UNRWA’s strategic response remained shelter repair, transitional shelter support and reconstruction of Palestine refugees’ homes. UNRWA’s transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) payments commenced on 25 September, with almost USD 1.3 million in payments provided since that date. In addition, about USD 5.6 million in payments for repairs have been made. To date, approximately 977 refugee families have benefited from TSCA payments, 37 of whom were residents in UNRWA Collective Centres. Another 5,300 refugee families have started to receive minor repair packages. This assistance will help families get back on their feet and help support them in securing adequate shelter for the winter months. The Agency continued its damage assessments work to determine assistance package eligibility throughout the week, with UNRWA’s construction and engineering personnel having so far assessed approximately 62,000 of the estimated 90,000 refugee homes that were impacted during the recent hostilities. Despite this progress and the ongoing payments to affected refugees, UNRWA remains extremely concerned about its ability to fund this programme through 2015. This is especially the case as the estimated number of homes damaged is more than double the initial Shelter Cluster estimates.
  • As winter approaches, UNRWA’s Collective Centre Management Unit (CCMU) has commenced the distribution of mattresses, blankets and mats. A Collective Centre (CC) in Rafah, at the southern end of the Strip and another in the Middle Area of Gaza received these non food items during the past week. Approximately 1,064 IDPs families (6,754 individuals) benefited from this assistance. In the coming days and weeks, the same exercise will be conducted in the remaining UNRWA CCs where IDPs are taking refuge. Also as part of CCMU’s winterization initiatives, the construction of showers is on-going in 11 Collective Centres with plans being made for the remaining seven buildings. 
  • This week, UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) held a three day workshop on gender based violence (GBV) and the GBV referral system for medical care staff (physicians, nurses and midwives). The main goal of the workshop, which involved 80 participants, was to promote awareness of GBV and provide empowerment tools for professionals in the Agency’s primary health care centres (PHCC). This included learning about detecting GBV cases, understanding appropriate communication channels regarding psychological support and legal services’ referral system. The workshop allowed for discussion of GBV arising after the recent hostilities.

General

Operational environment: The general atmosphere in Gaza remains tense. An increase in minor security incidents and local demonstrations is affecting the ability of the National Consensus Government to effectively assume power and govern the Gaza Strip. An unclear timeframe around reconstruction and the workings of the Government-led Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism are proving frustrating for affected families. UNRWA’s operational focus over the past week remained on Collective Centre management, health and school activities, shelter assessments, assistance to those with damaged or uninhabitable homes and regular ongoing support to Palestine refugees in Gaza.

UNRWA Response

Life in Gaza: a Palestine refugee family holds on to hope against the odds

Felesteen Isdudi with her seven children in an UNRWA Collective Centre

Twenty-six year old Felesteen Isdudi seems wise beyond her years. Having endured the worst of the recent conflict in Gaza and forced to evacuate the home she shared with her 30 year old husband, Bassan and their seven children, Felesteen is a survivor.

Her four sons and three daughters, aged 2 months to 9 years old, relocated with Felesteen and Bassan from Shejayeh neighbourhood in early July, when their home was severely damaged in the hostilities.

The family’s displacement journey started at their relatives’ home for three days, then at a non-UNRWA school shelter. Later, they moved together to UNRWA’s Collective Centre at Zaitoun Elementary Boys School “B”. This remains their current residence, with 2,866 other internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“When we arrived at the Collective Centre, we had nothing except for the clothes we were wearing,” said Felesteen. “We received mattresses and blankets, some clothing and other basic supplies.”

This is not the first time Felesteen’s family has benefited from humanitarian assistance. “We were given similar items after the storm hit the Strip last year, but that is all gone now… with our destroyed home,” she said. 

The family does not have a steady income. Bassan is a hard worker and currently holds a temporary contract as a cleaner for a private company in Gaza. His monthly salary is less than USD 150 and his current contract expires in December. Bassan benefited from UNRWA’s Job Creation Program for three months a couple of years ago and is always looking for a more permanent source of financial security for the family. 

Bassan is not alone. According to UNRWA’s PCBS data, the unemployment rate in Gaza surged to a record high 44.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2014. The refugee unemployment rate reached 45.5 per cent, the highest level ever reported in UNRWA’s PCBS-based records since 2000. The total number of unemployed exceeded 200,000 in mid-2014 and doubled compared mid-2013. It is predicted to be even higher since the conflict. 

The family remains reliant on UNRWA’s services to meet their basic needs. This includes utilizing UNRWA health centres, education and Relief and Social Services. The family also depends on UNRWA’s emergency food assistance to registered Palestine refugees.  Due to the current socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip, and as a result of the seven-year Israeli-imposed blockade, UNRWA currently provides food assistance to 867,000 beneficiaries. This has increased from 80,000 recipients in 2000. 

Whilst Felesteen and Bassan are grateful for adequate shelter, life in the Collective Centre hasn’t been easy for the family, particularly the children. “Each day, the children have to walk for over 80 minutes on the way to and from school, as we are unable to pay for transportation for them,” explains Bassan. “It is a very hard task for the children to walk daily for that long to get their education, and in winter this becomes harder – for them and also for me as I am unable to help them,” he added.  

The family’s youngest daughter was born whilst the family were displaced. She is named Suzan - after the name of Collective Centre Manager. “I wanted to show gratitude to the Collective Centre manager for her kindness and endless support,” explained Felesteen.

Immediately after the birth, Felesteen received maternity packages from UNRWA that included diapers, some clothing, hygiene supplies and a cot. The UNRWA medical team in the Collective Centre also provided follow up care for Felesteen and baby Suzan.

“Life in a Collective Centre is very hard due to being crowded, and the lack of privacy,” said Felesteen. “Another challenge facing us now as winter is approaching, is the weather, so when the children go to sleep I put them all beside each other to feel some warmth,” she said. 

Damage to the family’s shelter is currently being assessed by UNRWA engineers. The family is expecting to be entitled to temporary shelter cash allowance (TSCA), where they will have the resources to rent an apartment until their home is rebuilt. The issue for this family of nine will be finding a place to rent, as there aren’t many vacant apartments in Gaza. 

Felesteen is trying to remain optimistic and she won’t let hope go away, if not for herself but for her children. “The only dream I have now is to see my home rebuilt and to move to a normal life again, with a permanent job for my husband,” she said.


  • Between 4 and 11 November, UNRWA distributed 56,603 food rations to IDPs in Collective Centres across all five areas of the Gaza Strip. Food assistance is provided in partnership with WFP.
  • Since the start of the current cease fire, UNRWA’s Water and Hygiene Campaign activities are ongoing. During the last week, 203 IDP hygiene committees were active with a total of 1,701 members. The number of participants in the cleaning campaign was 4,484. A total of 324 awareness raising sessions were held and over 6,929 IDPs were trained on issues such as cleanliness, usage of cleaning materials, best practices in water management, how to keep food from being contaminated and how to treat lice and scabies and avoid other hygiene related diseases. The hygiene team also organized recreational and support activities for 3,464 children.
  • UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distributions to the Collective Centres. During the week of 4 to 11 November, 772 cubic metres of potable water were trucked, which is equivalent to about 4 litres of drinking water per person per day. 1,946 cubic metres of non-potable water were also trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the Collective Centres.
  • Between 4 and 11 November, all 21 UNRWA Health Centres continued to serve refugees. Approximately 87,712 consultations were made with doctors at UNRWA Health Centres during the reporting period. 
  • UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) continued to focus on structured recreational activities for UNRWA school students (fun, focused animation and entertainment activities) and psychosocial activities over the past week. A total number of 1,028 sessions were carried out, engaging approximately 32,506 students. The number of individual counseling sessions was 1,299, reaching 1,066 beneficiaries. 433 group sessions were facilitated, with 1,523 participants. CMHP teams continued to visit to schools to follow up teachers’ implementation of various classroom based psychosocial interventions and to offer general support. Over the reporting period, 460 sessions were held with 1,572 teachers. Support to parents also continues and 442 sessions were facilitated with about 1,245 parents. The CMHP also facilitated counseling sessions through UNRWA Health Centres. 
  • General maintenance such as waste removal from all of Gaza’s 8 camps continued between 4 and 11 November. 
  • During the past week, the 11 water wells in Jabalia Camp (6), Beach Camp (3), Khan Younis Camp (1) and Rafah (1) supplied water to beneficiaries. 
  • Maintenance and repair works continue on UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip. This involved plumbing repairs, metal works, carpentry, electrical works and painting.  

Summary of Major Incidents

Overnight on 3/4 November, it was reported that the IDF positioned at Kerem Shalom crossing and opened fire towards Gaza. Overnight on 6/7 November, eight IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) were reportedly found in front of political leaders’ houses in Gaza City and the northern area of the Strip. No injuries were reported. On November 10, it was reported that IDP tanks and two bulldozers penetrated approximately 200 metres for the border at Deir Al Balah. The troops reportedly withdrew later in the day. Overnight on 10/11 November, an explosion was reported at Kerem Shalom where it is understood that fuel pipelines exploded resulting in one death and three injuries. Several demonstrations in public squares and outside UN and NGO installations were reported during the week.

UNRWA Installations

The Agency has concluded assessments of its damaged UNRWA installations, with a total of 118. Repair work is ongoing.

Funding Needs

UNRWA is seeking USD 1.6 billion for emergency relief, early recovery and reconstruction priorities in the Gaza Strip. More information can be found here (PDF). The same information is available in Arabic here (PDF).

Crossings

  • Rafah crossing remains closed since 25 October. 
  • Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 4-6 November and 9-11 November. On 7 November the crossing was open for pedestrians only. On 8 November, the crossing was closed.  
  • Kerem Shalom was open from 4-6 November and 9-11 November. The crossing was closed on 7 and 8 November.