Gaza Situation Report 73
02 December – 09 December | Issue 73
- On 9 December, UNRWA launched the 2015 emergency appeal for US$ 414 million to support some of the most disadvantaged Palestinians in the Middle East – Palestine refugees living in the occupied Palestinian territory. For its emergency operations in Gaza, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. At the launch event in Geneva, UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis said, “It is with a great sense of disappointment that 2014 is ending as yet another year without a durable solution to the plight of Palestine refugees. This year has borne witness to violent conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory that has yet again caused the irreparable and inconsolable loss of lives…. 2014 has been a particularly devastating year for Palestinians, who continue to suffer under occupation and who continue to be robbed of their homes, their development and in many cases, their lives.” The Deputy Commissioner-General added that “the Emergency Appeal is symbolic of the collective failure of the international community to end the systematic suffering of Palestine refugees. In the absence of political action to end the current occupation, conflict and injustice, the emergency assistance provided by UNRWA and other UN agencies represents a lifeline for Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, many of whom cannot survive without such assistance,” Ms. Ellis said.
- Shelter assessments and ensuring access to adequate shelter for all Palestine refugee families remains a priority for UNRWA. The Agency estimates a total funding requirement of USD 720 million for transitional shelter cash assistance, reintegration payments, repair and reconstruction of Palestine refugee homes in Gaza that were damaged or destroyed as a result of the summer conflict. At the moment, the continued provision of transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) to cover temporary housing costs is not secured for 2015. If the Government-lead Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) is fully operational, the ceasefire continues to hold and funds are available, it is expected that it will take three years to complete self-help re-construction and repair of Palestine refugee homes damaged in the July-August conflict.
- To date, UNRWA’s engineering personnel have assessed more than 90,000 of the over 93,000 Palestine refugee dwellings damaged or destroyed during the recent Gaza conflict. As of this reporting period, almost USD 28 million in payments have been made to more than 29,000 families found eligible for UNRWA shelter packages. The payments include those for repairs to over 23,000 refugee families and transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) and reintegration payments to about 6,000 refugee families. To date, details of 26,000 damaged Palestine refugee homes which require construction material not available on the local market were shared with the Ministry of Public Works for their action through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). UNRWA plays no other role in the GRM.
- The precarious health sector in Gaza suffered a further blow during the reporting period, when on 4 December, all cleaning services provided to 13 hospitals and 56 primary health centres operated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza, including disposal of medical waste, were suspended until further notice. According to OCHA, this measure has been implemented by the seven companies providing cleaning services to the MoH, after recurrent strikes in previous months, due to a lack of payment for their services since June 2014. Around 750 workers employed by these companies have not received their salaries for the past five months. As a result, OCHA reports that the MoH was forced to suspend a range of medical services, including all services in out-patient clinics at hospitals, obstetric and gynecology services, and non-urgent surgeries (approximately 180 thus far). This has also significantly increased the risk of contamination and spread of diseases in medical facilities. OCHA reports that the halt in cleaning services exacerbates the situation of an already strained health system, affected by chronic energy problems, a shortage of equipment and medication, and a lack of training opportunities for its staff, stemming in large part from more than seven years of the blockade on Gaza. Adding to the instability faced by unpaid civil servants in Gaza, media reports indicate that the union of civil servants in the Gaza Strip announced on 9 December that all government employees would go on strike this Thursday, 11 December.
- On 3 December, UNRWA marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a ceremony in the UNRWA compound. The Coordination Committee of the Community Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRCs) in the Gaza Strip led the ceremony, in cooperation with UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Program. In 2014, UNRWA provided the Committee’s six CBRCs with 148 Job Creation Program personnel and supported capacity development of staff and volunteers at the Centres. UNRWA also provided books and stationery to students with disabilities at the special education schools in the CBRCs. The event was attended by more than 500 people and included performances by CBRC students. An important part of UNRWA’s work in Gaza is community-based rehabilitation (CBR), a set of strategies that aim to rehabilitate and socially integrate all people with disabilities while providing them with equal opportunities. UNRWA implements CBR through the combined efforts of persons with disabilities themselves, their families and communities and the appropriate health, education, vocational and social services. In 2013, the RSS disability program worked with 25,530 men, women and children with disabilities, including registered Palestine refugees as well as non-registered individuals. The United Nations theme for the 2014 observance is “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology."
- As part of its efforts to provide recreational and psychosocial support activities to refugee children attending UNRWA schools, the Agency is participating in a football league across its preparatory schools. Twenty-eight schools are engaged in the activity, under the umbrella of the German football sports project, “kicking the ball and taking care”, funded by the German government through the International Academy for Innovative Education, OPSI. The project started two years ago, with the kick-off of the current league on 10 November 2014. It is expected to run until the end of 2015 and consists of 172 matches, with 132 matches having already been played. The importance of sports and games in school encompasses more than just the benefit of physical activity. Improved self-esteem and mental alertness are also notable benefits. According to the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace, sport has also been recognised as a viable and practical tool to assist in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight time-bound MDGs aim to eradicate or reduce poverty, hunger, child mortality and disease, and to promote education, maternal health, gender equality, environmental sustainability and global partnerships.
18 UNRWA school buildings continue to serve as Collective Centres for 19,465 IDPs. Under the responsibility of the UNRWA Collective Centre Management Unit (CCMU), UNRWA continues to provide for the essential needs of the displaced, including food (47,234 rations over the reporting period, with WFP continuing to provide bread, milk and beans). To provide a variety of meals for IDPs, UNRWA has also recently introduced instant noodles and fresh fruits of apples or oranges. Through its Collective Centres (CCs), UNRWA continued to provide potable water (3 litres per person per day), non-potable water, psychosocial support and participatory hygiene campaigns to promote a healthy living environment in the CCs. Last week, 243 IDP hygiene committees were active with a total of 1,500 members. The hygiene team also organized recreational and support activities related to hygiene practices for 3,570 children.
Operational environment: The security situation in Gaza remains tenuous and there appears to be an apparent increase in threats and reports affiliated to extremist groups, which is a new development in the Strip. It was recently reported in the media that leaflets attributed to the Islamic State (IS) were distributed/found to be circulating at the universities in the Middle Area. The contents of the leaflets pertained to an advisory on how women should dress. At present the authenticity of the claim to be IS cannot be verified. The political environment in Gaza remains fragile, with last Tuesday marking six months since the formation of a National Consensus Government (NCG) for Gaza and the West Bank, as announced on 2 June, 2014. No formal announcement regarding the passing of the original six month mandate of the NCG has been made by the Government, although several media reports claim that an extension of the tenure is expected. This uncertainty adds to the burden already faced by Palestinian families in Gaza, as winter arrives and the pace of reconstruction through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism remains slow. There continue to be demonstrations and sit-ins demanding UN Agencies accelerate reconstruction efforts.
October-November Update: UNRWA Construction Projects
(excludes self-help shelter repair and (re-)construction under the Gaza reconstruction mechanism (GRM))
Status of UNRWA construction projects:
- Over the reporting period, there was no Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) approvals for new construction projects. In October, UNRWA received approvals to expand the scope of an infrastructure project to develop the sewerage, drainage and water supply system in Khan Younis.
- Over the reporting period, UNRWA completed four construction projects, including two schools in Rafah and Khan Younis and the bridge over Wadi Gaza on Salah-Al-Din Road, the main highway of the Gaza Strip extending from the Rafah Crossing in the South to the Erez Crossing in the North.
- Almost two years after submission to COGAT on 27 November 2012, 23 school construction projects worth over USD 41 million were approved on 16 September 2014. 21 of the 23 schools are in the design or contract awarding stages. The remaining two school projects are under design. Five projects, including one school, a solid waste infrastructure project and the reconstruction of a health centre, are still pending COGAT approval. The total value of the five projects pending COGAT approval is USD 27.34 million.
- After announcing the discovery of a tunnel entering its territory from Gaza in October 2013, the Government of Israel stopped all shipment of construction material to ongoing UNRWA construction projects. Clearance to resume projects is granted gradually. Two projects that received COGAT re-approval on 16 September 2014 are at the construction contract awarding stage for an estimated value of USD 6.98 million. Two projects are still awaiting COGAT re-approval.
- In total, UNRWA had 13 projects under implementation in October 2014, compared to 35 projects under implementation in October 2012 and zero (due to Israeli halt on material coordination) in October 2013. By the end of November the number of active projects had reduced to 9; this is expected to steadily increase following approvals received after the summer hostilities.
- As at the end of November 2014, UNRWA newly awarded five infrastructure contracts with a total estimated value of USD 21.5 million – 4 schools and a housing project in Rafah, all of which are scheduled to be handed over to contractors during December and to enter material coordination phase in January 2015.
UNRWA coordination and monitoring:
- In October, UNRWA coordinated 172 construction material trucks and in November 121 trucks for the 9 projects under implementation. The October 2014 coordination of trucks operated at 17 per cent of the Agency’s capacity proven during October 2012. During 2012, in October, UNRWA coordinated a total of 1,017 trucks of construction material. Extensive lag in approvals has resulted in reduction of active projects and corresponding reduction in coordination of restricted materials.
- During the reporting period, and in response to a new requirement introduced in late 2013 in addition to the strict monitoring regime already in place, UNRWA international staff members conducted daily monitoring of all eight concrete factories currently contracted by UNRWA building contractors to use materials for the Agency’s COGAT approved projects. The UNRWA Access team continued to escort trucks with coordinated construction material to its delivery destination to ensure that construction material is used for its intended purpose only.
- Since 2010, Israel has permitted construction materials to enter for approved UNRWA projects. To obtain approval, UNRWA must first submit detailed construction proposals, including design and bill of quantity, to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). On 16 September, COGAT advised that import of construction material to Gaza will be in accordance with the agreement of December 2013 and the newly established Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism between Palestine and Israel. The new Mechanism allows for private sector imports, and hence for shelter self-help for large scale reconstruction which was not possible under the previous mechanism. In 2013 alone, UNRWA’s additional staffing, transit and logistical costs resulting from Israeli requirements on access and monitoring of construction material imported through the only open border crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, amounted to over USD 6.7 million. This is the equivalent cost of building three UNRWA schools in Gaza.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
During the reporting week, there were a number of incidences of the IDF opening fire towards Palestinians near the fence. Several reports of Israeli patrol boats opening fire towards Palestinian boats were reported during the week.
The Agency has concluded assessments of its damaged UNRWA installations, with a total of 118. Repair work is ongoing.
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).
On 9 December, UNRWA launched the oPt Emergency Appeal in Geneva. For its emergency operations in Gaza, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here:
- The Rafah crossing was opened in one direction only on 2 December, for Palestinians stranded in Egypt to return to Gaza. It remained closed between 3 and 8 December.
- Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 2-4 December and from 7-8 December. On 5 December the crossing was open for pedestrians only. On 6 December, the crossing was closed.
Kerem Shalom was open from 2-4 December, and between 7 and 8 December. The crossing was closed on 5 and 6 December.
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