UNRWA provides assistance to Palestine refugee families in Gaza during stormy weather conditions

27 January 2016
UNRWA sanitation staff pump water out of one of the affected houses in Shaboura refugee camp in Rafah. © 2016 UNRWA Photo

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza has assisted approximately 500 Palestine refugee families with non-food items (NFIs) and nylon plastic sheets to help them cope with the heavy rainfall and cold during this week’s winter storm. No casualties or injuries have been reported, although it is understood that already fragile infrastructure may have been impacted. The current weather conditions exacerbate the already poor humanitarian situation for refugees and non-refugees in the coastal enclave, which continues to deal with the aftermath of the 2014 conflict and an acute fuel and energy crisis.

Over the past three days, UNRWA has deployed emergency teams across the Gaza Strip to work in refugee camps and help mitigate the risks of flooding. Garbage, including plastic bottles and large pieces of debris, can infiltrate a storm system through gutter grates, and significant amounts of sand and gravel can also build up along the bottom of storm lines. The accumulated debris prevents the storm water from draining effectively, sometimes causing street flooding. As part of the emergency team’s efforts, UNRWA sanitation workers are working 24 hours a day to pump rainwater and help mitigate the risk of flooding. The workers, many of whom are part of the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP), also continue to monitor and clean drains. 

UNRWA is in close consultation with all relevant actors, including the Palestinian Government and the local municipality, who are monitoring the level of rain across Gaza. 

During the winter season every year, UNRWA provides vulnerable refugee families and those living in inadequate shelters with NFIs to help them meet their basic needs. Winterization assistance usually addresses the specific needs of refugee families for additional blankets, clothing, mattresses and nylon plastic sheets. 

An Agency-wide campaign on winterization is also contributing to UNRWA efforts in Gaza. Under the hashtag #shareyourwarmth, donations are being received to help Palestine refugees stay warm this winter. 

Affected refugee families can approach the Agency’s Chief Area Offices or through relief and social services (RSS) and infrastructure and camp improvement programme (ICIP) offices.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
Najwa Sheikh Ahmad
Acting Public Information Officer - Gaza Field Office
+972 597 920 542
+972 8 2887 488