Where We Work
The Gaza Strip has a population of approximately 2.1 million people, including some 1.7 million Palestine Refugees. For at least the last decade and a half, the socioeconomic situation in Gaza has been in steady decline.
A blockade on land, air and sea was imposed by Israel following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. There are now very few options left for the people of Gaza, who have been living under collective punishment as a result of the blockade that continues to have a devastating effect as people’s movement to and from the Gaza Strip, as well as access to markets, remains severely restricted. The UN Secretary-General has found that the blockade and related restrictions contravene international humanitarian law as they target and impose hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed.
Food security in Gaza has deteriorated with 63 per cent of people in the Gaza Strip being food insecure and dependent on international assistance. The continuing intra-Palestinian divisions exacerbate the humanitarian and service delivery crisis on the ground. With 81.5 per cent of the population living in poverty, an overall unemployment rate of 46.6 per cent (48.1 per cent for Palestine Refugees living in the camps) at the end of the third quarter of 2022 and an unemployment rate of 62.3 per cent among youth (15-29 years, refugees and non-refugees), the already fragile humanitarian situation in Gaza threatens to deteriorate further. The economy and its capacity to create jobs have been devastated, resulting in the impoverishment and de-development of a highly skilled and well-educated society. Access to clean water and electricity remains at crisis level and impacts nearly every aspect of life. Clean water is unavailable for 95 per cent of the population. Electricity is available up to an average of 11 hours per day as of July 2023. However, ongoing power shortage has severely impacted the availability of essential services, particularly health, water, and sanitation services, and continues to undermine Gaza’s fragile economy, particularly the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
Eight recognized Palestine Refugee camps span the Gaza Strip and have some of the highest population densities in the world. Operating through over 13,000 staff in over 300 installations across the besieged coastal enclave, UNRWA delivers education, health and mental health care, relief and social services, microcredit and emergency assistance to registered Palestine Refugees.
On 7 July 2014, a humanitarian emergency was declared by UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, following a severe escalation of hostilities, involving intense Israeli aerial and navy bombardment and Palestinian rocket fire for 50 days. The scale of human loss, destruction, devastation, and displacement caused by this third conflict within seven years was catastrophic and unprecedented. While significant progress with regard to the physical reconstruction of Gaza has been achieved since 2014, the compounded effects of the blockade and repeated armed conflicts and violence continue to have less visible, but profound, psychological impact on the people of Gaza. UNRWA mounted an extraordinary emergency response which highlighted its unique position as the largest UN organization in the Gaza Strip and the only UN Agency that undertakes direct implementation.
A new round of hostilities in May 2023, while Gaza's population was still recovering from the August 2022 devastation, resulted in civilian deaths, including of children and women, and further damage to homes and infrastructure. In addition, a number of previous limited escalations of hostilities had also taken place, including Israeli airstrikes and, in retaliation, the firing of rockets and mortars by Gaza-based militants. In May 2021, an 11-day escalation of hostilities killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza, including over 60 children, among them 19 UNRWA students. You can read their names here and find more information from OCHA oPt. With exceptionally high poverty and unemployment rates, an already fragile humanitarian situation in Gaza threatens to deteriorate further.
In an environment of increasing needs and dependency, UNRWA has traditionally been perceived as a pillar of stability by Palestine Refugees in Gaza. In recent years, UNRWA has made significant improvements to its services in Gaza as part of Agency-wide reform as, for example, in the fields of education and health care.
Notwithstanding the Agency’s ongoing funding crisis, which has forced UNRWA in Gaza to take mitigating measures, particularly with regard to its emergency interventions, UNRWA continues to:
- Improve the academic achievement, behavior, and values of school students.
- Focus on the overall health and well-being of Palestine Refugees by providing Primary Health Care. The main provided service areas include infant and child health care, maternal health care, health care of patients suffering from communicable and non-communicable diseases, mental health psychosocial support, in addition to the outpatient services and the provision of essential medication and life-saving hospitalization coverage.
- Construct desperately needed infrastructure, including schools and shelters Improve the quality and targeting of its food and cash assistance to the poorest of the poor.
- Promote gender equality and human rights for all.
Last updated August 2023
For more information about current UNRWA operations in Gaza, please visit the Gaza Emergency Page.
REFUGEE CAMPS IN the Gaza Strip
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