Gaza Emergency Situation Report

weekly update – 09 December 08.00hrs – 16 December 08.00hrs | issue 74
the next update will be issued on Wednesday 14 January 2015

·96,000 Palestine refugee dwellings – more than twice as many homes in Gaza as initially estimated – were damaged or destroyed during this summer’s conflict, according to the technical assessment completed by UNRWA on 15 December. Whilst the technical assessment is completed, the Agency is extending a one week window between 21-25 December, for those refugee families who were not visited by a social worker but who consider themselves eligible, to apply for an assessment.

·The Agency has no funding in the bank account to continue shelter assistance, including transitional shelter cash assistance, as of January 2015. The impact of UNRWA ceasing payments to affected families during the winter months would be dramatic: The Agency would have to stop paying transitional shelter cash assistance to support families in temporary housing solutions, and would also have to stop providing cash assistance to allow families to repair their homes. UNRWA estimates a total funding requirement of USD 720 million for transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA), reintegration payments, repair and reconstruction of Palestine refugee homes in Gaza that were damaged or destroyed as a result of the summer conflict. To date, only some USD 100 million has been pledged, leaving a funding gap of USD 620 million.

·As of this reporting period, about USD 37 million in payments have been made to more than 39,000 families found eligible for UNRWA shelter packages. The payments include those for repairs to over 30,000 refugee families and transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) and reintegration payments to about 9,000 refugee families. To date, details of more than 27,000 damaged Palestine refugee homes which require repair and construction material not available on the local market were shared with the Ministry of Public Works for their action through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). Based on data provided by the National Consensus Government, through UNSCO, approximately 8,657 families have received imported materials through the GRM, of which about 1,057 are Palestine refugee families. A mechanism that would allow shelter reconstruction remains to be agreed.

·On 17 December, UNRWA’s education department hosted an event to mark the 10 December observance of the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. The UNRWA ceremony was held at Gaza Prep girls school A and B, allowing an opportunity for students, School Principals, teachers, Area Education Officers and others to join together for recreation activities, musical performances, poetry readings and special awards. Human Rights Day is celebrated worldwide annually. This year’s slogan, Human Rights 365, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.

·On 10 November 2014, the Secretary-General established an internal and independent United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry into certain incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 8 July and 26 August 2014. The Board will review and investigate a number of specific incidents in which death or injuries occurred at, and/or damage was done to, United Nations premises. While in Gaza last week, the Board visited a number of UNRWA schools in which deaths and injuries occurred, including Jabalia Elementary Girls A and B School and Beit Hanoun Elementary Co-educational A and D School. The Board will also review and investigate incidents in which weapons were found to be present on United Nations premises.

·UNRWA school buildings continue to serve as Collective Centres for 19,010 IDPs. Under the responsibility of the UNRWA Collective Centre Management Unit (CCMU), UNRWA continues to provide for the essential needs of the displaced, including food (39,784 rations over the reporting period, with WFP continuing to provide bread, milk and beans) to all IDPs in CCs across the Gaza Strip. On 15 December, UNRWA introduced hot meals of chicken & rice. As the days and nights grow cooler in winter, UNRWA will also be providing hot meals of rice and lentils and rice, vegetables and meat. Through its Collective Centres (CCs), UNRWA continued to provide potable water (4 litres per person per day), non-potable water, psychosocial support and participatory hygiene campaigns to promote a healthy living environment in the CCs. A water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) training was held on 15 December for all WASH focal points in CCs, and all area and shelter managers. A total number of 40 participants were trained on the Arabic version of sphere standards. Additionally, WASH cross cutting issues such as gender, protection and accountability were introduced to the participants. Last week, 250 IDP hygiene committees were active with a total of 1,550 members. The hygiene team also organized recreational and support activities related to hygiene practices for 3550 children.

General

·Operational environment: There has been no improvement in the security situation in Gaza, with a notable increase in rockets being tested during the reporting period. An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded outside the French Cultural Centre on the evening of 12 December, the second blast there in as many months. The Centre was closed at the time. According to media reports, security sources said the blast damaged a wall of the building which also provides consular services for the French government, but no casualties were reported. Flying shrapnel is also believed to have damaged part of the building's interior. On 10 December, two IEDs exploded in front of a Fatah affiliated (Yabus Society) building at Al Awada Square. Severe damage occurred to the gate and the stores of the Society. Two injuries were reported from the adjacent houses in the area. On 13 December, the Islamic Jihad movement organized a rally and held a press conference at Al Saraya junction in Gaza city in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails. Hamas organized several parades during the reporting week to mark the 27th year of its foundation. There is a risk of further civil unrest as the number of demonstrations and sit-ins continue, with demands on UN Agencies to accelerate reconstruction efforts, and the pace of the Government-lead Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism remaining slow. The challenges for the Palestinian government, formally in place since 2 June, remain huge, and include payments to former de facto government staff who have not seen full salaries for over one year. It is reported that a half salary of between NIS 1,000 and NIS 3,500 was paid on 14 and 15 December to all security employees of the former de-facto government who continue to report to work despite being unpaid since November 2013..The payment was announced by the deputy Minister of Finance and was processed through the Palestinian Islamic bank, production bank and the mail offices.

UNRWA’s response

UNRWA distributes shelter assistance packages to eligible Palestine refugee families



Maysa Al Dairi in the center with the red scarf

Maher Al Dairi’s family of eleven are Palestine refugees from Sabra neighborhood, Gaza City. They were forced to evacuate their home after it was totally demolished during the conflict. They took refuge at Maher’s brother’s home for a couple of days with their three sons and six daughters, aged 11-21 and then rented an apartment in Sabra neighborhood close to his family home.

Forty-four year old Sara, Maher’s wife, says: “When the Israeli army started to bomb a neighbouring agricultural land, the windows of our house started to fall down and we were forced to evacuate our home without taking any of our belongings. I felt so helpless as we lost everything. It is incredible how we lost so much in such a short time.”

The damage assessment process for the Al Dairi family’s home started in mid-September, when UNRWA social workers visited the shelter to assess the eligibility for a technical assessment. Engineers then followed and visited the shelter at the end of September. The case was processed in coordination between UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Program (RSSP) and its Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Program (ICIP).

The family was pleased to be found to be eligible for UNRWA’s Transitional Shelter Cash Assistance (TSCA), with a provision of USD 250 per month.

Maher says: “At the beginning of December, I was called by the RSSP Office in Gaza south, to sign the TSCA and reintegration package. I received a much needed amount of 1,000 dollars as TSCA for four months and the 500 dollar reintegration package. I utilized the reintegration package to buy kitchen kits including cooking gas.”

“We were living in a very beautiful house; it was one of the most luxurious in the area. I will continue to live in the rented apartment until I get our home rebuilt,” he added.

UNRWA intends to continue paying TSCA for owners of demolished homes until their homes are reconstructed.

Like many Palestine refugee families in the Strip, the Al Dairi family has no regular income. They rely heavily on the humanitarian assistance they receive from UNRWA. Their children attend UNRWA schools and the family has access to UNRWA's health services. They also receive regular emergency food aid.

Maher Al Dairi has shouldered many worries since the blockade was imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2007, as he used to work in exporting citrus, a job that is no longer viable due to restrictions on exports. Maher says: “I used to earn some 5, 000 shekels a month, but now, I earn nothing. It has become very difficult for me to make my ends meet.”

Summary of Major Incidents

During the reporting week, there were a number of incidences of the IDF opening fire towards Palestinians near the fence. On 11 December, militants fired one rocket towards Israel. The rocket dropped short and landed in Palestinian area. No injuries were reported. There were also several reports of militants firing test rockets towards the sea. On 13 December, Egyptian patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats forcing them ashore. On 16 December IDF tanks and bulldozers were reported to have entered Gaza near the borders in Khan Younis and Rafah, in southern Gaza, withdrawing on the same day.

UNRWA Installations

The Agency has concluded assessments of its damaged UNRWA installations, with a total of 118.
Repair work is ongoing.

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: English | Arabic

On 9 December, UNRWA launched the oPt Emergency Appeal in Geneva. For its emergency operations in Gaza, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.

Crossings

· The Rafah crossing remained closed between 9 and 16 December.
· Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 9-11 December and from 14-16 December. On 12 December the crossing was open for pedestrians only. On 13 December, the crossing was closed.
· Kerem Shalom was open from 9-12 December, and between 14 and 16 December. The crossing was closed on 13 December.

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.

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
  • Almost 12,500 staff
  • 252 schools in 146 school buildings for more than 240,000 students
  • 21 health centres
  • 16 relief and social services offices
  • 12 food distribution centres for almost 868,000 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.

American Friends of UNRWA, INC

1666 K Street, NW Suite 440
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202.223.3767 | Fax: 202.457.0549
info@friendsunrwa.org
Federal tax ID number: 20-2714426

Copyright 2014 American Friends of UNRWA, Inc.