Gaza Emergency: Weekly Situation Report

weekly update – 15 October 08.00hrs – 21 October 08.00hrs | issue 66
the next update will be issued on Wednesday 29 October 2014

Highlights

  • 18 UNRWA school buildings continue to serve as Collective Centres for approximately 38,346 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
  • Less than two months into the current cease fire, there are grave concerns regarding Gaza’s fuel and energy supplies. The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) was shut down during the recent conflict, after it was hit and sustained significant damage. The GPP remains out of function following its repair in August, due to lack of fuel and no storage capacity. In order to sustain critical services, most service providers have been consuming high levels of fuel to run electricity generators, which are also expensive to run. The Gaza Strip is traditionally supplied with electricity from three sources: purchases from Israel (120 megawatts, MW) and from Egypt (28 MW), and production by the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) (currently 60 MW). According to UN sources, prior to the 2014 war this supply was meeting approximately 46 per cent of the estimated demand.
  • A WHO-led joint assessment of health needs and services in Gaza, which was released last week, indicates that urgent work is needed to rehabilitate the damaged health system and prevent further loss of life. According to the report, during hostilities more than half the Strip’s hospitals and health centres were damaged or destroyed. As well, over 11,000 people were injured, putting enormous strain on existing facilities. The assessment highlights an urgent need to ensure sufficient fuel supply for generators at health facilities. It also found critical shortages of essential medicines and other supplies, medical equipment out-dated or in need of repair, and health staff unpaid and in need of targeted trainings. In a recent press conference, the Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip issued an urgent appeal to the international community to intervene and "rescue Gaza's healthcare situation." Media reports indicate that health authorities in Gaza warned of a "genuine disaster", saying the fuel needed to run power generators in the strip's hospitals would soon be depleted, threatening operations at hospitals and medical centres. Hospitals in Gaza have, for the past several years, been suffering from severe disruptions due to power cuts currently reaching as high as 18 hours per day.
  • UNRWA Gaza’s microfinance program disbursed 112 loans valued at USD 270,600 through its seven credit initiatives during September. Forty-two percent of clients were women. Since its establishment in Gaza in 1991, the Agency’s microfinance program has disbursed 107,840 loans worth USD 124.7 million. The aim of the program is to improve the quality of life of small business owners, micro-entrepreneurs and poor households. UNRWA microfinance initiatives do this through the provision of credit and other financial services that sustain jobs, decrease unemployment, reduce poverty, and provide income-generating and asset-building opportunities to Palestine refugees, including women and youth.
  • UNRWA commenced the latest round of its regular food assistance distribution during the past week. Alarmingly, the number of refugees in Gaza relying on food aid has increased since the last round, from 830,000 to more than 867,000 beneficiaries.

This week, UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Program (RSSP) commenced a Vulnerability Assessment and Support Initiative (VASI), to review appropriate support to the most vulnerable individuals and their families in UNRWA Collective Centres. Under RSSP management, Vulnerability Focal Points (VFP) were recruited as part of UNRWA’s Job Creation Program (JCP). The VFPs were deployed to Collective Centres to identify IDPs who face additional vulnerabilities, including people with disabilities, widows, those suffering from chronic diseases, mothers who gave birth during the war and the elderly. 194 vulnerable persons have been identified since the start of the VASI, with many having already benefited from the assistance provided by several partner NGOs.

This week, 241,000 UNRWA students engaged in the learning process according to the third phase of UNRWA’s innovative approach to education in Gaza. 252 schools operated with a total of 8,034 teachers. Ninety per cent of UNRWA school buildings remain operating on a double shift basis and two buildings on a triple shift. Stationery and school text books continued to be distributed to all students and UNRWA schools were provided with stationery, cleaning materials, chalk, furniture and other supplies. Many children remain in need of bags, uniform, hygiene kits, textbooks and extra stationery.

  • The implementation of UNRWA’s shelter assessment of Palestinian homes continued over the past week. UNRWA social workers have visited almost all damaged homes and its construction and engineering personnel have so far assessed about 30,000 houses. According to estimates based on preliminary information from the UNRWA shelter assessment, around 80,000 refugee homes were impacted during the recent hostilities.
  • 538 Palestinian children are confirmed killed during the 50 day war. The cumulative death toll among Palestinians is at least 2,254, including 306 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.

General

Operational environment: The atmosphere in Gaza is one of both frustration and eager anticipation, as families await tangible action after the recent recovery and reconstruction conference held in Cairo. The enormity of the task ahead is becoming clear. This was highlighted by UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Pierre Krähenbühl in a press release on 20 October: “Cairo saw important commitments made, which we welcome. On the ground we are confronted with high expectations by thousands of families in critical need. We therefore urge that pledges be rapidly transformed into actual contributions that will allow us to start the process of rebuilding.” Access for building materials remains critical, as does the lifting of the seven-year blockade. The people of Gaza need attention and support in this critical phase, in particular with the winter approaching. They also need a paradigm shift, with an end to aid dependency, an end to the restrictions on movement, trade and employment imposed by the blockade. 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.

UNRWA’s response

RSSP personnel provide key support to UNRWA’s emergency & early recovery response activities


It was not too long ago that UNRWA Social Worker, Najwa Zaalan thought she might lose her home, in the midst of 50 days of conflict in Gaza. ”The house next to my home was impacted but fortunately and by a miracle my home escaped damage and my family survived,” she explained.

The current cease fire has held for almost two months, but Najwa quickly recalls her own circumstances during the war, and the way it affected her life at home. "All of us were exhausted physically and emotionally. I was terrified for my four children all the time, not knowing whether I will go home to them or not. To help my children cope, I used to prepare sweets for them whenever I could. They would always ask me when the war will stop. During any truce, they would again ask "is the war over?"

A Social Worker for the past eight years at UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Program (RSSP), Najwa continued to work, despite the challenges for her family. Working twelve hour days, Najwa initially contributed through social interventions at Asma' Elementary Co-ed School, which was housing about 1,600 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the time. Najwa helped raise awareness on matters related to water and hygiene. “My job included providing hygiene awareness sessions for IDPs, helping modify hygiene practices and advising people of the best use of cleaning materials and water,” she said.

Like many other UNRWA Social Workers, Najwa’s duties shifted during the conflict and she was soon asked to assist with UNRWA and WFP’s exceptional food assistance distribution to about 121,600 families in Gaza.

When UNRWA commenced shelter assessments last month, Najwa was happy to shift her responsibilities a third time to that of a team leader, supervising three personnel in the north of Gaza. Their daily workload involved visiting the homes of 15-20 refugee families each, asking scripted questions and providing this information via paperwork to a centralized system. The data is then used to arrange damage assessment visits by UNRWA engineers, which determines the level and type of assistance packages that may or may not be available to families.

To help ensure a faster and more efficient assessment process, UNRWA did not require refugees to register for an assessment, as was the case after previous wars. "It was very useful and effective that UNRWA announced to people that they don't need to register,” explained Najwa. “It facilitated work and expedited the achievement of our tasks. People were also comfortable as they knew that they wouldn't be left behind. They felt UNRWA cared for them.”

200 Job Creation Program (JCP) social workers were recruited in addition to more than 120 fixed term RSSP staff, to ensure families were visited in a timely manner. Another 48 JCP data entry clerks were also hired by RSSP to upload the data received by the social workers when they returned from the field. Sixteen shelter focal points and five governorate coordinators were assigned to supervise the assessment process.

UNRWA estimates that around 80,000 refugee homes were impacted during the 50 day conflict. Almost all of these have now been visited by RSSP personnel. UNRWA encourages those refugee families with damaged homes who have not yet been visited by a social worker, to report to their nearest RSS office.

Najwa will soon return to her pre-war role as an acting supervisor within UNRWA’s Social Intervention Unit responsible for addressing social, psychological, educational and behavioural issues. Despite the many challenges, she is grateful to have been able to contribute to UNRWA’s emergency and early recovery activities.

"Knowing that I am serving my people is what made the entire ordeal bearable. To be in the field, and to help one's people and see their reaction is a reward all in itself,” said Najwa. “My work has always related to the humanitarian side of matters; it is better than any monetary reward.”



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  • Between 11-21 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 97,158 rations during the reporting period. Donations of cereal, soup and water were also received via UNRWA’s West Bank Field Office, and delivered to beneficiaries in the Collective Centres.
  • Since the start of the cease fire the water and hygiene campaign activates are ongoing. On 15 October, UNRWA participated in global hand washing day, organizing activities for children in Collective Centres. The activities were focused on the hand washing process through entertainment and shows performed by local professional artists. Hand washing day was originally created for children and schools, but can be celebrated by anyone promoting hand washing with soap. Each year on October 15, over 200 million people are involved in celebrations in over 100 countries around the world. Hand washing with Soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which together account for 3.5 million child deaths annually.
  • Over the past week, 151 IDP hygiene committees were active with a total of 1,222 members. The number of participants in the cleaning campaign was 5,721. A total of 377 awareness raising sessions were held between 15-21 October, and over 7,829 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 4,255 children.
  • UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distribution to the Collective Centres. During the week of 15-21 October, 1,271 cubic metres of potable water was trucked, which is equivalent to about 4 litres of drinking water per person per day. 1,401 cubic metres of non-potable water was also trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the Collective Centres.
  • Between 15 and 21 October, all 21 Health Centres continued to serve refugees. A total of 85,340 people had appointments at UNRWA Health Centres over the past week.
  • UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Program (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 1,219 sessions were carried out, engaging approximately 51,077 students. The total number of individual counseling sessions was 937, reaching 722 beneficiaries. 171 group sessions were facilitated, with 858 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, 430 sessions were held with 2,003 teachers. Support to parents also continues and 414 sessions were facilitated with about 1,429 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 15 and 21 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

No major incidents were reported between 15 and 21 October.

UNRWA Installations

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.

Funding Needs

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. The same information is available in Arabic here.

Crossings

  • Rafah crossing was open for humanitarian cases and international visa holders from 15-20 October.
  • Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff on 15, 19 and 20 October. It was also open on 17 October for medical cases only. It was closed 16 and 18 October due to Israeli public holidays.
  • Kerem Shalom was open on 15 and 20 October. It was closed from 16-19 October due to the public holidays in Israel.

Background

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 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.

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