Gaza Situation Report 191

30 April 2017
 © 2017 UNRWA Photo

18 April – 25 April 2017 | Issue 191

Highlights

  • The UNRWA Gaza Job Creation Programme (JCP), in cooperation with the Agency’s Gaza Field Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP), launched its annual “fighting mosquitoes” project across the Gaza Strip. The project runs for six months and includes the spraying of stagnant water pools, water assembly points and sewage pools in the eight refugee camps in Gaza, as well as in two areas of northern Gaza with a high Palestine refugee population. The project also includes the cleaning of waste water treatment plants to avoid the breeding of mosquitoes. Through this project, JCP hires 61 people for short-term employment opportunities in the unskilled sector, and six people in the skilled sector. In total during 2016, the UNRWA Gaza JCP provided employment opportunities for 21,348 beneficiaries; since the start of 2017, a total of 9,090 Palestine refugees have also benefitted from the Programme. Environmental health risks for the Palestine refugees living in eight refugee camps in Gaza – with an average population density of nearly 40,000 persons per square kilometre – are highly challenging. This has been reported by the UN in 2012, through its Gaza 2020 report. Standing wastewater near camps are known breeding grounds for mosquitoes, threatening the health of the community, including children. The spread of the Sika virus in other parts of the world, has further highlighted the risks of mosquito-borne diseases globally, and preventative measures that can be taken, including those annually implemented by UNRWA. Through this project, UNRWA is also contributing to the UN global Sustainable Development Goals, particularly number three – good health and well-being –, number six – clean water and sanitation – , and number 8, related to decent works and economic growth.
  • Two Palestine refugee female students in the eighth grade at UNRWA Al-Zaitoun Preparatory Girls' School (B) won the second and third place in a regional drawing competition organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) to mark World Health Day under the theme of 'Depression: Let’s talk about it'. Using ‘arts’ as a developmental tool to promote positive mental wellbeing through its advocacy efforts, participants aged between eight to 18 years old were asked to design posters with messages on support strategies to prevent and overcome depression and promote positive mental health. In the Eastern Mediterranean region, 22 countries participated in the contest. One hundred and fifty drawings were submitted to the WHO office in Egypt from UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip out of which two made it to finals. According to the WHO data, approximately 70% to 80% of people who experience depression are not treated in the region. In this regard, UNRWA estimates that due to blockade and recurrent conflicts approximately 30 per cent of UNRWA students require structured psychosocial interventions. To promote the wellbeing of Palestine refugees in Gaza, the UNRWA field Community Mental Health Programme has expanded its programming in 2016 to include 105 psychosocial facilitators in a number of UNRWA schools to support the 230 school counsellors.
  • On 16 April, the UNRWA Gaza Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) in coordination with Rafah Women’s Programme Centre (WPC) and Nuseirat WPC organized a training course on the “Basics of Households Maintenance” for 25 Palestine refugee women. The hands-on training aims at reinforcing the self-confidence of vulnerable women through providing them with knowledge and basic skills required to tackle household repair tasks. The training, which runs for one month, three days per week, providing approximately 50 training hours, covers a variety of topics including painting, plumbing repair, and electrical safety. The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) aims to empower Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions.
  • In partnership with the British Council, the UNRWA Gaza field Education Programme held an awards ceremony on 25 April to honour 21 UNRWA English Language educational specialists, and English Language teachers for their participation in the Certificate in Secondary English Language Teaching (CiSELT) training. The awards ceremony was held in the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre conference hall in the presence of the Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations, Gaza, Ms. Melinda Young, the Chief, field Education Programme, Mr. Farid Abu-Athra, education specialists, teachers and students, and British Council representatives.  At the end of the ceremony, honouring certificates were distributed to the participants and the international trainers. The two-phase CiSELT training aims to develop teachers' methodological skills, enhance their communicative, reflective and learning-centred teaching skills and further professionalize teachers’ classroom practice. Over two years, 600 teachers from UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip have received the training.
  • From 23 to 27 April, 15 UNRWA medical officers participated in a Training of Trainer (TOT) regarding a mental health gap interventions guide. This is a technical tool developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist health-care providers in non-specialized health-care settings to integrate mental health in primary health care services. The training was implemented by the WHO office in Gaza and an international expert from WHO global. The training aimed at developing the capacity of medical officers through a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to addressing the needs of Palestine refugees with regard to mental health and psychosocial support services. The training focused on mental health and psycho-social support, detection of mental health disorders, and improving medical diagnosis and referrals to hospitals and other specialized clinics. The training also provided participants with specific skills to identify and address psychosocial stress symptoms of patients during their regular work. In February 2016, UNRWA Gaza field Health Programme (HP) launched a pilot integration project in Saftawi Health Centre, in North Gaza, to fully integrate mental health care and psychosocial support within its primary health care services.

Operational Environment

Israeli patrol boats fired towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip on an almost daily basis, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported. On 20 April, Israeli bulldozers and tanks entered approximately 60 metres from the perimeter fence into Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.

On 20, 21 and 22 April Israeli troops positioned at the perimeter fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. On each occasion, no injuries were reported.

Several protests were held across the Gaza Strip regarding the 30-40 per cent cut to Palestinian Authority employee allowances, impacting salaries in Gaza. Other protests that took place included protests regarding the electricity situation, those in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and against the blockade.

UNRWA Response

Rental subsidies are a lifeline for displaced Palestine refugee families in Gaza

Rafiq Abed, Gaza Field Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme Chief, in his office in Gaza city checking Transitional Shelter Cash Assistance lists before the distribution of the 2017 first quarter payments. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Rafiq Abed, Gaza Field Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme Chief, in his office in Gaza city checking Transitional Shelter Cash Assistance lists before the distribution of the 2017 first quarter payments. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

Between 7 July and 26 August 2014, the Gaza Strip experienced the deadliest and most devastating round of hostilities since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967. More than two and a half years on, most people and institutions are still struggling to cope with their immense loss. Aside from the massive damage to the enclave’s infrastructure – including hospitals, water and electricity networks, and streets – some 12,500 housing units were totally destroyed and around 6,500 homes were severely damaged; over 19,000 housing units were rendered uninhabitable. Around 70 per cent of the affected families are Palestine refugees.

In response, UNRWA provides transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for displaced Palestine refugee families, enabling them to rent a temporary home until their houses can be repaired or rebuilt.  9,117 families’ homes were totally destroyed and 5,550 families’ homes were severely damaged as a result of the 2014 conflict. UNRWA pays an average of US $ 250 in TSCA per family monthly. TSCA is a significant coping mechanism of profound importance to refugees and the community; without TSCA, many families would be homeless, be forced to live in damaged, half-repaired homes or go into significant debt to cover their rent.

Completing repair/reconstruction works and reducing the TSCA caseload has an economic implication for the broader community, as it decreases demand and allows rental fees to stabilise which were previously very high after the hostilities a result of the low housing supply following the 2014 conflict. High rents have also often forced families to live in over-crowded shelters in an unhealthy environment. A major achievement has been the near completion of repairs of 5,550 homes so severely damaged as to be uninhabitable and now, the priority for UNRWA is to complete all reconstruction works of totally destroyed homes. 

“Through distributing TSCA to Palestine refugee families who lost their homes in the 2014  conflict, UNRWA tries to support families who have lost everything and enable their basic right to live in dignity, and this won’t happen without adequate shelter,” said Rafiq Abed, Chief, UNRWA Gaza Field  Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme.

In 2014, 2015, 2016 and in the first quarter of 2017, the Agency managed to pay rental subsidy payments to all eligible refugee families. UNRWA undertook this commitment by utilizing its available funds in a way with the greatest impact, for example since February 2015 UNRWA has prioritized the ‘severe damages’ caseload for repair payments aiming at ending the displacement of 5,500 families and, indirectly, contributing to a better equilibrium in the demand and supply for housing.

“If UNRWA does not pay the rental subsidy, these families will have to deduct from the money which they use for food, education and health to try to pay rent,” adds Rafiq. “When I meet and listen to families who receive rental subsidy payments from UNRWA, they keep asking if we will be able to continue paying.”

“Rental subsidy is a lifeline for all displaced refugee families,” said Rafiq. “Without it, people can’t survive; usually UNRWA provides advance rental subsidies on a quarterly basis, but due to lack of sufficient funding for the balance of 2017, future payments are uncertain.”

In April, UNRWA distributed almost US $ 3 million to 4,500 Palestine refugees’ families, with this money; they can rent an alternative home while awaiting the reconstruction and repair of their houses.

UNRWA Gaza assumes income of US $4 million of TSCA from current Emergency Appeal funds. At the time of writing the 2017 Emergency Appeal, approximately US $17 million was the forecasted requirement. However, the first quarter 2017 TSCA payments reflect an operating environment characterised by market availability of construction supplies, a functioning Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism which each contributed to a sustained pace of construction. UNRWA now estimates TSCA requirement to be no more than US $12 million in 2017 which narrows the funding shortfall of this critical intervention to US $8 million.

Funding Needs

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget in 2017. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

Following the 2014 conflict, US$ 257 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which an estimated US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 463 million. UNRWA urgently appeals to donors to generously contribute to its emergency shelter programme to provide displaced Palestine refugees in Gaza with rental subsidies or cash assistance to undertake repair works and reconstruction of their damaged homes.

As presented in UNRWA’s occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Emergency Appeal for 2017, the Agency is seeking US$ 402 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt.

The Gaza portion of the Emergency Appeal amounts to US$ 355 million for 2017, to address protracted, large scale humanitarian needs. Read more in the oPt Emergency Appeal for 2017

Crossings

Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel prevents all access to and from the Gaza Strip by sea and air. Movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza is restricted to three crossings: Rafah crossing, Erez crossing and Kerem Shalom crossing. Rafah crossing is controlled by the Egyptian authorities and technically allows for the movement of a number of authorized travellers, Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases only. Erez crossing is controlled by Israeli authorities and technically allows for the movement of aid workers and limited numbers of authorized travellers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.

  • Rafah crossing was closed during the reporting week.
  • Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. This week it was open from 18-20 and 23-24 April. On 21 April it was open for emergency and medical cases only. It was closed on 22 April.
  • Kerem Shalom crossing is the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip and is usually open five days a week. It was open 18-20 and 23-24 April. The crossing was closed 21-22 April.