Gaza Situation Report 99

01 July 2015
© 2015 UNRWA Photo

23 June – 30 June 2015 | Issue No. 99


  • The rebuilding of totally destroyed homes in Gaza is set to begin in a few days as an agreement between the parties to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) – the Government of Palestine (GoP) and the Government of Israel (GoI) - has been reached, on a fourth stream within the GRM, called  Residential stream. Initially the GRM was composed of three streams: 1. Repair of damaged homes/properties; 2. Large scale public and private sector works; and 3. United Nations led projects and works. For its self-help shelter repair programme UNRWA relies on the first stream of the GRM (“Shelter Repair Stream”), which allows families to access dual use materials for the repair of homes with minor, major and severe damages. A key element of the GRM is the materials monitoring unit project (MMU), which is led by the Office of the United Nations special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on behalf of the UN and the Government of Palestine. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) provides administrative support to the materials monitoring unit (MMU). Extensive negotiations for a fourth stream, a simplified “Residential Stream”, to allow for the construction of totally destroyed houses have now proven successful. This means that families can begin the reconstruction of their homes immediately once they are cleared though the system and UNRWA can begin disbursing the instalments.  With funds secured from the German government, UNRWA is able to support 200 refugee families to rebuild their totally destroyed home; of them 86 families have prepared the design and building permits. During the reporting week, the list of 86 families has been sent to the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA) to be uploaded to the GRM online database (GRAMMS).
  • UNRWA has signed almost US$ 13 million in construction contracts with 8 different Gaza contractors during the reporting week. These construction projects include the reconstruction of five school buildings – three in Gaza city, one in Khan Younis and one in Rafah - one health centre in Khan Younis, as well as alteration works at several school buildings in North Gaza and in Rafah.
  • 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. 

  • The Khan Younis Rehousing Project allocation process in on going with 449 housing units being allocated to selected refugee families. In line with the Agency’s policy of co-signing between husbands and wives, 356 families have signed the undertaking and 181 of them have already moved into their new dwelling unit. 93 families are still expected to sign the undertaking. Almost half of the caseload of eligible families are Social Safety Net (SSN) Programme cases living in constricted shelters–more than 3 persons living in less than 50m2- and identified across the Gaza Strip according to an UNRWA scoring system that considers social, financial, cultural and technical criteria.  As of 29 June, 161 SSN families have signed the undertaking and 20 of them have already moved into the new shelters. The Khan Younis Rehousing Project is funded by an US$ 19.7 million contribution from the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent with and offers 600 housing units in total. 
  • Shelter update:

    • Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, UNRWA has distributed over US$ 111.2 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or demolished during the 2014 summer conflict. To date, UNRWA has completed the payments to over 60,000 Palestine refugee families – almost half of the caseload –for minor repair works and to 290 families to repair their severely damaged shelters. 11,601 families are awaiting further assistance to repair their shelters. 11,653 families have received a rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014 and all eligible families have received the first and second rental subsidy payments for the period from January to July 2015.
    • Due to the lack of funding, to date still 51,039 families have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 7,698 have not received the second tranche to continue repair works. UNRWA has processed these cases and they have received approval through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; as soon as funding is secured the Agency can distribute the urgently needed financial support. 693 refugee families still wait for their rental subsidy payment covering the period from September to December 2014 due to assessment problems (still unconfirmed eligibility). 3,116 families have not received their US$ 500 reintegration grant to replace lost household goods.
    • 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.

General

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.

UNRWA’s response

The blockade ruins labourers, dreams and families

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.

Summary of Major Incidents

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.

Funding Needs

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.

Crossings

  • The Rafah Crossing was open from 23 to 25 June in both directions. On 23 June 75 persons entered Gaza, 448 persons crossed to Egypt and 31 persons were denied entry into Egypt. On 24 June 130 persons entered Gaza, 480 persons crossed to Egypt and 30 persons were denied entry into Egypt. On 25 June 203 persons entered Gaza, 228 persons crossed to Egypt and 23 persons were denied entry into Egypt. Rafah Crossing was closed from 26 to 30 June. On 23 June also approximately 1,900 tons of cement entered Gaza through Rafah Crossing, according to the Ministry of Economics.
  • The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 23-25 and 28-29 June. On 26 June, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 27 June.
  • Kerem Shalom was open from 23 -25 June and 28-29 June. It was closed on 26 June

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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