Gaza Emergency: Weekly Situation Report
weekly update – 08 October 08.00hrs – 15 October 08.00hrs | issue 65
the next update will be issued on Wednesday 22 October 2014
· 18 UNRWA school buildings continue to serve as Collective Centres for approximately 42,506 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
· Early recovery activities and the rebuilding of Gaza remained in the headlines over the past week, highlighted furthermore by a visit from the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. Accompanied by UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Pierre Krähenbühl, the UN Chief visited Gaza on 14 October. He viewed destruction wrought by the most recent conflict that was “beyond description”. He also met with the ministers of the National Consensus Government calling on them to focus all efforts on “building one Palestine.” “We stand by you. The international community supports your government’s efforts to assume the security and governance responsibilities in Gaza,” the Secretary General said in remarks following his meeting with top officials of the government, including its Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr. Mr. Ban also visited a UNDP fishing project and held a town hall meeting with UN Staff, where he saluted the sacrifice made by those who had died during the hostilities. During a press conference held at an UNRWA school in Jabalia that was hit during the conflict, the UN Chief talked about meeting the children of Gaza, saying that being born in Gaza should not be a crime. He reiterated the importance of addressing the underlying causes of the conflict and declared that the “build-destroy, build-destroy cycle must be broken. The mindless pattern of blockade, rockets and destruction must stop.” Mr. Ban said, “I am committed to doing everything possible in my power to support political efforts to finally end the nearly half century of occupation, ensure Israel’s legitimate security needs and establish peace once and for all.” Prior to his day in Gaza, the Secretary General met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minster Rami Hamdullah in Ramallah. Mr. Ban also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin while in Jerusalem on 13 October.
· Nearly 90 countries and international organizations attended the Cairo International Conference on Palestine - Reconstructing Gaza on 12 October. The event was co-hosted by the governments of Egypt, Norway and Palestine. As announced by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a total of USD 5.4 billion in assistance to Palestine was pledged. Reportedly, about half of the funds will go to the reconstruction of Gaza and the other half to development needs in the rest of Palestine, and to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Conference was widely followed on social media, especially Twitter via the hashtag #GazaConfCairo and the UNRWA-led ThunderClap campaign, using the hashtag #Freedom4Gaza. The State of Palestine National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza was the only official document presented at the Cairo conference and includes identified needs of Palestine refugees, channelled through UNRWA. In line with the State of Palestine Plan, the UNRWA strategic response (document attached in Arabic and English) is seeking USD 1.6 billion for emergency relief, early recovery and reconstruction priorities in the Gaza Strip. The most critical interventions are shelter repair and reconstruction, for which over USD 600 million cash support for shelter self-help are required. More information is available in the attached document.
· The first truckloads of pre-war rebuilding material arrived in Gaza on Tuesday, reportedly intended for private construction. The material entered under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) – a temporary agreement between the Government of Palestine (GoP) and the Government of Israel (GoI), brokered by the United Nations in September 2014 . According to UNSCO, if implemented in good faith, this mechanism represents an important step towards the objective of lifting all remaining closures, and a signal of hope to the people of Gaza. A High Level Steering Team, consisting of representatives of the GoP (Ministry of Civil Affairs), GoI (CoGAT) and the UN (UNSCO) has been established and is actively engaging to ensure all processes move forward smoothly. UNOPS has been commissioned to establish a unit to ensure and coordinate end use monitoring. Whilst it is hoped that this is the start of continued recovery and reconstruction efforts, there is as yet no clarification on a timeline for the entry of reconstruction material for Palestinian homes, including those of refugees.
· The seven year Israeli-imposed blockade on Gaza continues to have a devastating effect on the Strip. Access to markets and people’s movement to and from the Gaza Strip remains severely restricted. This was highlighted during the past week when it was reported that the first shipment of commercial goods from Gaza to the West Bank was canceled on the day of expected delivery. Two truckloads of agricultural products were due to exit Gaza on 14 October, for sale in the West Bank. It is reported that the trucks, one carrying sweet potatoes and the other dates, were sent back to the Strip. On October 22, a meeting is reportedly planned between the Israeli and Palestinian agricultural coordinators, as well as representatives of the private sector from Gaza, to further discuss details related to the potential marketing of goods from Gaza to the West Bank. Due to the ongoing blockade, Gaza’s 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 official unemployment rate in Gaza for Q2 2014 is 44.5 per cent.
· UNRWA’s education department commenced the third phase of its innovative “back-to-school” program this week. About 241,000 students currently attend 252 UNRWA schools. Two schools continue to operate on triple shift basis whilst 18 UNRWA school buildings remain in use as Collective Centres.
· The implementation of UNRWA’s shelter assessment of Palestinian homes continued over the past week. UNRWA social workers have visited 78,330 homes and its construction and engineering personnel have so far assessed 23,137 homes. According to estimates based on preliminary information from the UNRWA shelter assessment, up to 75,000 – 80,000 refugee homes were impacted during the fifty days of hostilities. There will be an opportunity to appeal after assessments are completed. As a collaborative effort between Shelter Cluster members, the National Consensus Government, UNRWA and UNDP, assistance packages will be offered to families whose homes are assessed as uninhabitable. Payments for rental support (transitional shelter cash assistance – TSCA) and the reintegration package started on 28 September 2014.
· 516 Palestinian children are confirmed killed during the 50 day war. The cumulative death toll among Palestinians is at least 2,186, including 283 women, according to the continued collection of preliminary data by the Protection Cluster from various sources. 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: The current international and UN focus on rebuilding Gaza has signified some hope for people in the Gaza Strip, however, until there is more tangible evidence of change at the household level, the atmosphere will continue to be one of frustration and struggle for most. UNRWA’s operational focus remains on Collective Centre management, “back to school” activities, shelter assessments, assistance to those with damaged or uninhabitable homes and regular support to Palestine refugees in Gaza.
· Between 8-15 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, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distribution to Collective Centres. During the week of 8 - 15 October, 1,330 cubic metres of potable water were trucked, which is equivalent to about 4 litres of drinking water per person per day. 1,458 cubic metres of non-potable water were also trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to Collective Centres.
· Since 8 October, 131 IDP hygiene committees in Collective Centres were active, with a total of 950 members. 407 awareness raising sessions were held and over 6,981 IDPs were trained on issues such as cleanliness, usage of cleaning materials, best practices in water management, how to keep food from being contaminated, how to treat lice and scabies and to avoid other hygiene related diseases. The hygiene team also organized recreational and support activities for 5,254 children. OXFAM Hygiene Promotion activities have also taken place in UNRWA Collective Centres since the end of September. A total of 74 health sessions have been implemented, with the objective of improving adults’ water handling and environmental hygiene in the Centres.
· Between 8 and 15 October, all 21 Health Centres continued to serve refugees. A total of 129,377 people had appointments at UNRWA Health Centres over the past week.
· 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 1,735 sessions were carried out, engaging approximately 59,841 students. The total number of individual counseling sessions was 624, reaching 453 beneficiaries. Eight group sessions were facilitated, with 68 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, 87 sessions were held with 712 teachers. Support to parents also continues and 18 sessions were facilitated with about 216 parents.
· General maintenance such as waste removal from all of Gaza’s 8 camps continued between 8 and 15 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 14-15 October it is reported that the Israeli Navy opened fire at Palestinian boats. No other major incidents were reported between 8 and 15 October.
The Agency has concluded assessments of its damaged UNRWA installations, with a total of 118. Repair work is ongoing and a redesign for one school and three other installations that need to be rebuilt is in progress.
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 from 8-14 October.
· Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 12-14 October. It was also open on 8 October for pedestrians only and on 10 October for medical cases only. It was closed on 9 and 11 October due to Israeli public holidays.
· Kerem Shalom was open on 8, 13 and 14 October. It was closed from 9-12 October due to the public holidays in Israel.
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.
On 8 July 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 830,000 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 830,000 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.