Gaza Emergency: Weekly Situation Report
weekly update – 21 October 08.00hrs – 28 October 08.00hrs | issue 67
the next update will be issued on Wednesday 5 November 2014
- 18 UNRWA school buildings continue to serve as Collective Centres for approximately 32,419 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
- The Monday 27 October talks in Cairo between Israel and Palestine, were postponed by Egypt in the wake of an attack on 24 October in the northern Sinai Peninsula. The attack occurred at an army checkpoint and reportedly involved a car bomb followed by other artillery. Media reports indicate that 30 Egyptian troops were killed. The security situation has resulted in the closing of the Rafah crossing to Gaza since the 25th. The talks on Monday were reportedly scheduled to discuss and attempt agreement on topics including opening a sea port, reopening the Gaza airport, prisoners, reconstruction and other outstanding matters since the 26 August cease fire was declared. It was hoped that the discussions would lead to a permanent cease fire and a lifting or easing of the 7-year blockade on Gaza. Media reports indicate that the Cairo talks will be rescheduled for the second half of November.
- The critical immediate priority in Gaza remains the reconstruction of people’s homes. Whilst on 14 October private construction material entered the Strip for the first time under the National Consensus Government’s (NCG) Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, material to rebuild private homes, including for Palestine refugees, is still pending disbursement. Current indications from the Government are that cement will be distributed to a small number of already assessed eligible families on Thursday 30 October. The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism involves four categories of work: repair of individual shelters, large scale projects, UN projects and emergency stabilization of damaged shelters. UNRWA welcomes the NCG’s Mechanism and hopes it becomes fully functional as soon as possible. It is hoped that the Mechanism will ease the approval procedures previously required for UN Agencies’ projects, making them predictable and lightening the administrative and coordination process for UN Agencies engaged in construction work. The new Mechanism is required to enable the commencement of shelter self-help activities. For UNRWA this was not possible under the previous Mechanism as it only covered UNRWA projects such as schools and health centres. Approvals will be issued at the ‘Programme of Works’ level rather than the previous project-by-project basis. A monitoring unit, staffed by UNOPS and reporting to UNSCO is currently being established. The Mechanism was agreed between Israel and Palestine in September 2014.
- The most critical interventions for UNRWA’s strategic response are shelter repair and reconstruction, for which USD 680 million cash support for shelter self-help is required. The implementation of UNRWA’s shelter assessment of Palestinian homes continued over the past week. UNRWA social workers have visited almost all damaged homes, covering an additional 3,996 homes in the past week. UNRWA’s construction and engineering personnel have so far assessed about 50 per cent of the case load, or approximately 40,000 houses. According to estimates from the UNRWA shelter assessment, around 80,000 refugee homes were impacted during the recent hostilities. UNRWA estimates that over 100,000 homes (refugee and non-refugee) were damaged or destroyed in the recent conflict, affecting more than 600,000 people. This figure is much higher than preliminary Shelter Cluster estimates.
- The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) reportedly resumed partial operation on Sunday. Gaza’s power company director is quoted in the media stating that the GPP is able to provide residents with about 8 hours of electricity per day. This is a minor improvement on the up to 18 hours per day that residents and organizations are typically without electricity in Gaza. Due to lack of financial resources to buy fuel and no storage capacity the GPP had been inoperable since it was repaired in late August after sustaining damage when hit in the recent hostilities. On Wednesday 22 October, UNRWA hosted an introductory workshop on Child Protection and Gender Based Violence (GBV) for staff working at UNRWA Collective Centres where over 32,000 IDPs re currently residing. The objective of the workshop, which was held in cooperation with UNICEF, OCHA and OHCHR, was to strengthen the knowledge and skills of UNRWA Protection Focal Points to prevent and respond to child protection concerns and GBV in UNRWA Collective Centres.
- A training workshop was conducted by RSSP at Bureij Women’s Programme Centre (WPC), in partnership with a local NGO, to provide participants with psychosocial support and crisis management skills. UNRWA in Gaza implements programs specifically for registered Palestine refugee women through seven WPCs. The programs aim to empower refugee women, enhance their economic status and social development, promote their role within both the family and community and strengthen their self-confidence and self-reliance.
- UNRWA Gaza’s Education Department and Community Mental Health Program worked together this week to finalize measurement indicators for UNRWA teachers when assessed on psychosocial stress, coping and job satisfaction. The Education Department also presented certificates to teachers who participated in the related training held the week prior.
- Over the past two weeks, UNRWA’s Collective Centre Management Unit (CCMU) has conducted training sessions for the five Area Collective Centres Coordinators and 34 Collective Centre Managers and assistants. The training topics have included CCMU Objectives, the team’s roles and standards and the distribution of food and ratio quantities methodology. The training also incorporated WASH issues, the Cash Assistance Programme and human resources. The CCMU Manager also shared winterization plans. On October 27, a training session was held for the five Area Collective Centre Coordinators who were trained on registration and NFI distribution, Cash Assistance Programme Methodology (TSCA, minor repairs) and Protection inside the Collective Centres.
- 538 Palestinian children are confirmed killed during the 50 day war – 339 boys and 199 girls – according to the continued collection of preliminary data by the Protection Cluster from various sources. The Cluster reports the cumulative death toll among Palestinians as at least 2,254, including 306 women. It is reported that the cumulative Israeli fatality toll is 71, of whom 66 were soldiers and one civilian fatality was a child.
Operational environment: Whilst recovery and reconstruction of the Strip is essential at this time, families in Gaza still eagerly await updates regarding critical underlying issues such as a lifting or easing of the seven year Israeli-imposed blockade. UNRWA welcomed the cease fire on 26 August, which ended 50 days of unprecedented violence and destruction. However, without a political solution a new cycle of violence is perceived as being very likely. UNRWA’s operational focus over the past week was on Collective Centre management, vulnerability assessment follow ups, school activities, shelter assessments, assistance to those with damaged or uninhabitable homes and regular ongoing support to Palestine refugees in Gaza.
UNRWA’s Gender Initiative staff contribute to emergency & early recovery efforts
Najwa Lubbad leads a training session
As a Project Coordinator at UNRWA’s Gender Initiative (GI), Najwa Lubbad’s passion for her job is obvious. “Working on women’s issues is the field I like to work in. I'm doing my best to improve women's conditions in Gaza and help them to overcome the challenges they face,” she said.
Najwa has worked on women’s issues and empowerment in the Gaza Strip for 12 years, the last 3.5 of which have been with UNRWA. The Agency introduced the Gender Initiative in 2008, designed to improve the capacity of women and girls to exercise freedom of choice, take advantage of opportunities for personal and professional development and to address inequality at all levels of social, economic and political life.
Embedded in a community development approach, the GI works through local stakeholders and builds the capacity of community based organizations (CBOs) as a means to ensure sustainability of the programs. The Initiative partners with about 62 CBOs across Gaza. More than 11,000 women have participated in activities in 2014.
Najwa is proud of her team and the work it does to develop, design and implement monitoring and evaluation of GI projects. “The GI team includes eleven staff members – seven females and four males. I believe that the team atmosphere is the key to many of our achievements,” Najwa said. “The team is well qualified, aware of their roles, very much cooperative and looking to achieve the success and progress of gender focused activities.”
Najwa’s GI campaign skills and experience, on projects such as domestic violence awareness campaigns, were put to good use when she joined the emergency water and hygiene team during the recent conflict in Gaza. Her role was to ensure that IDPs in UNRWA schools were aware of, and shared the responsibility for helping to promote clean shelters and prevent any major health issues, including scabies, lice and water related diseases.
“We succeeded to form IDP Committees responsible for the hygiene issues at the shelters and to provide awareness sessions on the importance of hygiene and how to avoid getting sick,” Najwa said.
Her personal experience of the war has helped Najwa to identify with beneficiaries who have undergone similar ordeals. “The emergency personally affected me in term of frustration and depression, living for long times under fire, seeing dead bodies, destroyed homes and people who were forced to evacuate their homes,” Najwa says.
“I can't describe the feeling when we were forced to evacuate our home late one evening. We didn’t know where to go, and were surrounded by people who were running and screaming. The most difficult time though, was when I saw my Mum who lost her son in the last war , praying all the time for a cease fire and asking God to keep her children safe.”
Najwa did stay safe throughout the conflict and has now returned to her regular day job. The water and hygiene committees’ work continues whilst 18 UNRWA schools remain open as Collective Centres, housing more than 32,000 IDPs, as part of the Agency’s early recovery response.
Najwa is quick to highlight that whilst the emergency presented many challenges, the ongoing situation in Gaza continues to have an impact on GI activities. “Our main objective is to build women’s capacities, including through employment opportunities but the Gaza situation provides limited opportunities for women’s participation in the labor market,” Najwa says.
Gaza has been under a tight blockade since 2007. Throughout 2013, exports from Gaza and people’s movements to and from the Strip remained virtually banned. The blockade destroyed Gaza’s previously dynamic trade-oriented economy and its capacity to create jobs and pushed the majority of the population into poverty and aid dependency. In the second quarter of 2014, the refugee unemployment rate reached 45.5 per cent, the highest level ever reported in UNRWA’s PCBS-based records since 2000. The female youth refugee unemployment rate is recorded as 87.1 per cent.
Despite the ongoing challenges, Najwa and her team continue to operate with a view to improving women’s personal and professional skills, improving their economic and social conditions and building the capacity of the partner CBOs. “I and my colleagues in the GI team will always continue to work hard in order to help women in Gaza access their rights,” Najwa said.
- Between 21-28 October, UNRWA continued to deliver truckloads of non food items and food to Collective Centres. This food support is provided in cooperation with WFP. UNRWA delivered a total of 84,679 rations during the reporting period.
- UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) continued with follow ups related to its Vulnerability Assessment and Support Initiative (VASI). The initiative is reviewing appropriate support to most vulnerable individuals and their families in UNRWA Collective Centres.
- Since the start of the ceasefire the Water and Hygiene Campaign activities are ongoing. Last week, since 21 of October, 211 IDP hygiene committees were active with a total of 1,761 members. The number of participants in the cleaning campaign was 5,012. A total of 324 awareness raising sessions were held and over 7,960 IDPs were trained on issues such as cleanliness, usage of cleaning materials, best practices in water management, how to keep food from being contaminated and how to treat lice and scabies and avoid other hygiene related diseases. The hygiene team also organized recreational and support activities for 5,275 children. As well, activities related to the global hand washing campaign are ongoing.
- UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distributions to the 18 Collective Centres. During the week of 22-28 October, 1,021 cubic metres of potable water were trucked, which is equivalent to about 5 litres of drinking water per person per day. 1,083 cubic metres of non-potable water were also trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the Collective Centres.
- Between 21 and 28 October, all 21 UNRWA Health Centres continued to serve refugees. Approximately 14,721 consultations were made with doctors at UNRWA Health Centres during the reporting period.
- UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) continued to focus on structured recreational activities for UNRWA school students (fun, focused animation and entertainment activities) and psychosocial activities over the past week. A total number of 989 sessions were carried out, engaging approximately 44,896 students. The total number of individual counseling sessions was 878, reaching 792 beneficiaries. 208 group sessions were facilitated, with 1,161 participants. CMHP teams continued to visit to schools to follow up teachers’ implementation of various classroom based psychosocial interventions and to offer general support. Over the reporting period, 829 sessions were held with 1,888 teachers. Support to parents also continues and 327 sessions were facilitated with about 1,857 parents. The CMHP also facilitated counseling sessions through UNRWA Health Centres.
- General maintenance such as waste removal from all of Gaza’s 8 camps continued between 21 and 28 October.
- During the past week, the 11 water wells in Jabalia Camp (6), Beach Camp (3), Khan Younis Camp (1) and Rafah (1) supplied water to beneficiaries.
- Maintenance and repair works continue on UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip. This involved plumbing repairs, metal works, carpentry, electrical works and painting.
Summary of Major Incidents
- Overnight on 24 October the Israeli navy opened fire towards a Palestinian boat west of Rafah. No injuries were reported. No other major incidents were reported between 21 and 28 October. UNRWA Installations
- The Agency has concluded assessments of its damaged UNRWA installations, with a total of 118. Repair work is ongoing.
UNRWA is seeking USD 1.6 billion for emergency relief, early recovery and reconstruction priorities in the Gaza Strip. More information can be found here:
- Rafah crossing was open for humanitarian cases and international visa holders between 21-24 October. From 25-28 October it was closed.
- Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff on 21-23 and 26-28 October. It was also open on 24 October for medical cases and pedestrians only.
- Kerem Shalom was open from 21-23 and 26-28 October. It was closed from 24-25 October.
Following the escalation in violence between Gaza and Israel in November 2012 an understanding was reached between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Egypt. 2013 was subsequently the quietest year in a decade, in terms of hostilities between Israel and Gaza. Events in 2014, however, have led to a profound deterioration in the situation.
From 8 July until 17 September 2014, UNRWA declared an emergency in all five areas of the Gaza Strip in response to escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. Until the 26 August cease-fire, civilian displacement and fatalities reached unprecedented levels.
The Israeli blockade of Gaza entered its 8th year in June 2014 and continues to have a devastating effect as access to markets and people’s movement to and from the Gaza Strip remain severely restricted. The economy and its capacity to create jobs has been devastated, with the majority of the population becoming dependent on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs. The number of Palestine refugees relying on UNRWA for food aid has increased from fewer than 80,000 in 2000 to over 867,000 today.
Gaza: Facts and Figures
- 1.26 million refugees out of 1.76 million total population
- 8 refugee camps
- Over 12,500 staff
- 252 schools in 156 school buildings for more than 240,000 students
- 21 health centers
- 16 relief and social services offices
- 12 food distribution centers for more than 867,000 refugees
- Living under a tightened land and sea blockade since 2007
- Shattered local economy
- Long standing restrictions on movement of people and goods led to a de-development of Gaza
- Potentially unlivable place by 2020
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight.