23 June – 30 June 2015 | Issue No. 99
UNRWA is currently piloting an English Language Speaking and Listening Skills Training for male and female 8th graders in 9 of its schools across the Gaza Strip. With this initiative UNRWA supports high-achieving students. The training began on 8 June and targets 300 students across Gaza who want to improve their oral skills and gain confidence with English as a foreign language. The participants are tutored by 63 volunteer teachers who work with the students three times per week, in gender-separated class rooms, for 30 to 35 hours in total. Classes are based on the Cambridge English textbook.
UNRWA is facing the most severe financial crisis in its 65-year history of serving Palestine refugees: currently the Agency has a funding shortfall for core activities of US$ 101 million. In this context UNRWA has issued the two following announcements:
- 85 per cent of all short term international personnel will be separated in a phased process which will last until the end of September: 35 per cent will see their contracts end in the coming four weeks, and 50 per cent will end by 30 September without further extension or renewal.
- The introduction of Exceptional Voluntary Separation (EVS), which provides staff who qualify with the choice to voluntarily separate from the Agency before the age of retirement.
These initiatives, which come in response to the dire financial situation faced by the Agency, go beyond the austerity measures and are part of a series of steps to bring down internal costs while ensuring the delivery of services to Palestine refugees. While UNRWA is fully determined and capable of delivering its core services, at present, funding is sufficient only until the month of September.
As of 29 June, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 138,508 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the July/August armed hostilities, 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. In addition, 4,939 shelters have suffered severe, 3,635 major and 120,817 minor damages.
The Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been open from 13 to 19 June and from 23 to 25 June in both directions. During this period, trucks of construction material were allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. In total approximately 16,000 tons of cement have entered the enclave, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Economics which supervises the entry of all construction material from Egypt. Construction material is brought in through private traders who have to sign a legal commitment with the Ministry of Economics that the quantities are under the responsibility and supervision of the ministry. Traders are obliged to sell the cement at a set price of NIS 800 (approximately US$ 200) per ton and factories across Gaza are monitored by the Ministry. The ministry furthermore decided that 60 per cent of the imported material should be distributed to beneficiaries to repair damaged shelters. Beneficiaries are obliged to request the needed quantity online and receive approval after a control- field visit by representatives of the ministry. According to the media, 2,000 applications were submitted to the ministry, requesting 25,000 tons of cement in total. The ministry announced that a total of 9,000 tons of cement has been distributed to beneficiaries However; the needs recorded in Gaza would require 1.5 million tons of cement to fully rebuild Gaza in the aftermath of the 2014 summer conflict, state the media.
Operational environment: Gaza’s reconstruction is moving at a “snail’s pace”, said incoming chief of the Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Robert Valent, to the media. At this pace the reconstruction of Gaza will likely take more than 30 years, he furthermore stated, and he called for Israel to not ease, but lift access restrictions on the Gaza Strip. The blockade on Gaza was trying to be breached by the third international Freedom Flotilla, yet media report that one of the four vessels had already been intercepted by the Israeli navy and was peacefully redirected to the port of Ashdod in Israel on 29 June. The vessel was carrying the former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and 17 other activists.
Israel has revoked the entry permits of 500 Palestinians from Gaza to attend prayers in Jerusalem during Ramadan, reportedly due to a rocket that was launched on 23 June from Gaza and landed in an open area in southern Israel.
Regular protests took place during the week, mostly in support of the Freedom Flotilla III and for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza; protestors also demanded the release of Islamic Jihad prisoner Khader Adnan who has been on hunger strike for 55 days in an Israeli prison and will be released on 12 July.
Manager Mujahed Mahmoud Al Sosi is contemplating the work of his employees in his furniture factory in Jabalia, northern Gaza. © UNRWA 2015 Photo by Khalil Adwan
In the first floor of a beige, tall building in the Jabalia neighbourhood in northern Gaza, Mujahed Mahmoud Al Sosi sits behind a small desk full of piled papers and notepads; a map of the Middle East decorates the wall, next to a selection of different fabrics – from claret-red to salmon pink or marine blue. The Al Sosi company was once one of Gaza’s bustling trade companies, exporting the famous high-quality Sosi furniture to Israel and from there to Europe. Yet in 2007 Israel enforced its blockade on Gaza and Mujahed’s business started to crumble. While before 2006 he employed between 150 and 170 laboureres on a full time basis, today only a fraction of around 30 (or 20 per cent) remains – and there were times where this number decreased even to only 20 labourers on a part time basis.
“Nine years of blockade made it extremely difficult for companies and businessmen in Gaza to survive; the future of labourers, their dreams and families, are in a precarious situation,” commented the 49-old manager, himself a father of six, who struggles to keep the Sosi company running and competing for the small Gaza market with other furniture producing companies.
“Our exports decreased from 100 per cent in 2006 to zero in 2014 and to only 20 per cent in 2015 – and only to the West Bank market,” he added, shaking his head as in disbelieve about the dire situation he finds himself in.
UNRWA tries to ease the adverse effects of the blockade through various programmes, for example through the large-scale (cash-for-work) Job Creation Programme (JCP) through which the Agency provides short-term employment opportunities for refugees to inject urgently needed cash into the economy. Since May 2013, 9 skilled and 12 unskilled JCP workers have been placed in the Sosi factory and the benefit is two-fold: while the company profits from subsidized labour that helps it survive in these difficult times, the JCP workers are able to greatly improve their skills which raises their chances in the highly-competitive Gaza job market. Currently, the Sosi factory still employs 4 JCPs whose contracts came to an end.
In 2014, UNRWA injected a total US$ 18.1 million into the economy through the JCP and almost 120,000 refugees benefited from the programme through the provision of 20,545 JCP positions.
Israeli forces shot at Palestinians near the security fence or at Palestinian boats almost on a daily basis. On 22 June two Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire in Khuza’a in the Gaza Middle Area.
On 23 June militants fired one rocket towards Israel; the rocket exploded in an open area southwest of Ashkelon. On 24 June Israeli aircraft fired one missile targeting the rocket launcher site. No injuries were reported in both incidents.
US$ 216 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 504 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, 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.
Kerem Shalom was open from 23 -25 June and 28-29 June. It was closed on 26 June