What We Do

Emergency Response

Over the past 60 years, UNRWA has always taken action to mitigate the effects of emergencies on the lives of Palestine refugees.

Gaza Strip Emergency

For the third time in less than six years, a terrible escalation of violence has engulfed the Gaza Strip. Rocket fire from Gaza to Israel has been met with air strikes and a ground offensive that have caused serious damage to homes and civilian infrastructure. In the small, dense and sealed enclave, civilians are always at risk. After only a few weeks, hundreds have died, thousands have been injured and over one hundred thousand have fled their homes, seeking shelter in UNRWA facilities.

To read more about the crisis in Gaza, click here

The latest round of violence reveals clearly how unsustainable the situation in Gaza is. The socioeconomic situation has been getting steadily worse since the onset of the second intifada in September 2000, and the blockade imposed on Gaza since June 2007 has led to unprecedented poverty levels. Every aspect of residents’ daily lives is affected, and society is breaking down. It is estimated that about three quarters of the population now depend on aid, and receive food assistance to ensure their mere survival.

The conflict in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009 left large-scale destruction in its wake. A total of 1,393 Palestinians, including 358 children, were killed, more than 5,300 were injured and some 60,000 shelters were demolished or damaged. In November 2012, Gaza witnessed an eight-day escalation of violence that left another trail of destruction, including around 158 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries. In December 2013, the fiercest winter storm the region has seen for many years, Alexa, hit the Gaza Strip, and brought torrential rains and widespread flooding that displaced thousands. 

The Government of Israel partially eased the blockade in 2010, beginning to allow the entry of limited quantities of basic construction materials for international projects pre-approved by the PA and Israel. However, due to what UN-OCHA has referred to as “the pivotal nature of the remaining restrictions,” the impact has been minor, and despite some economic growth, Gaza residents are now worse off than they were in the 1990s.  Unemployment levels are high, and food insecurity is a major concern. Approximately 60 per cent of the population is food-insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity, even after receiving assistance.

Young, creative and skilled people have no jobs and no prospects for a job. Years of unemployment and the steady depletion of savings and other resources have left parents no longer able to provide for their families. Families can’t boil water for their babies, as the electricity is cut off for hours every day. Children have rotating classes and spend hours in the yard, as no one is able to build new classrooms to accommodate them. This loss of dignity threatens the fabric of civilized society, with children worst affected by the crisis.

How is UNRWA helping?

During and after the conflict in Gaza in 2012, UNRWA staff provided essential services and in-kind assistance to a population under severe stress. Since late 2000, we have operated an emergency programme to protect and safeguard the rights of Palestine refugees in difficult circumstances.

Our activities address the immediate and longer-term consequences of protracted conflict in support of individual and community coping strategies. Our humanitarian assistance mitigates the negative effects of the violent environment, giving special attention to those most affected and vulnerable, especially children and the poorest of the poor.

With economic activity stagnating and global food prices expected to rise, we work to prevent further deterioration in the food security of refugees and the most vulnerable. We accomplish this through direct emergency food assistance, emergency cash assistance and cash-for-work opportunities.

Food assistance

Around 80 per cent of Gazan households are dependent on food aid. Recent UNRWA data indicate that more than 300,000 Palestine refugees in Gaza live below the abject poverty line and are unable to meet their basic food needs. Through emergency food aid, UNRWA seeks to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and counter the impact of people’s chronic difficulties affording food. At present, an estimated 700,000 Palestine refugees receive food aid. A separate school-feeding programme is needed to ensure all 226,000 students at UNRWA schools receive basic nutrition.

Cash assistance 

In 2013, UNRWA will offer targeted cash assistance to 205,000 of the poorest Palestine refugee families, helping them bridge the average poverty gap that remains after receiving UNRWA’s emergency food assistance. We also plan to provide back-to-school financial support to students at UNRWA schools. Paying for uniforms and other essential items makes sure every child, however poor, is able to return to school.

Job creation

UNRWA alleviates the impact of unprecedented unemployment and poverty through the provision of 7,000-15,000 work contracts per month, supporting tens of thousands of indirect beneficiaries. This provides much-needed employment to Palestine refugee men and women, injects cash into the local economy and supports the development of skills among unemployed young graduates. In any one year, UNRWA provides 25,000-40,000 such jobs, and can provide up to 55,000, depending on funds available.

Strengthening essential services and emergency response

As part of the emergency programme, we have strengthened our support for essential services, especially health, education and environmental health. The Agency closely monitors its interventions and maintains a rapid response capacity to ensure that we can respond effectively to acute crises impacting refugee communities.

In More Detail

Emergency Response Services
Drawing on years of expertise, a vast operational capacity and the mission...
Gaza Strip Emergency
The socioeconomic situation in Gaza has steadily deteriorated since the...
West Bank Emergency
West Bank Emergency In the West Bank, Palestine refugees frequently suffer...
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
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