25 April – 01 May 2017 | issue 192
Efforts of the international community to support delivery of development assistance in Palestine continue. The bi-annual meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) is taking place in Brussels on 4 May. Chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the European Union and the United States, this 15-member committee acts as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people and aims to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel. In addition, the United Nations participates together with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The meeting comes in the midst of a worsening energy crisis in Gaza which - coupled with ongoing blockade, deterioration of the socio-economic situation and restrictions – has severe humanitarian consequences and denies a basic standard of living to the people in Gaza, as noted in an op-ed by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, in "This Week in Palestine". In the same vein, the report of the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) published ahead of the AHLC meeting notes that “Gaza is facing a downward spiral of de-development, while the people in Gaza are caught in a cycle of humanitarian need and perpetual aid dependency”. To alleviate the consequences of the energy crisis and ensure delivery of basic services for example in the health sector, the United Nations are supporting fuel delivery to hospitals in Gaza with a recent allocation of US$ 0.5 million of emergency funding for this purpose. The World Bank and IMF reports to the AHLC can be accessed here and here.
In a testament to their academic excellence and leadership, 349 Palestine refugee students were honored for graduating from the ‘English Access Micro-Scholarship Programme 2015-2017’. The two-year English language programme funded by the United States aims to enable bright youth to gain proficiency in the English language and develop other communication skills, in addition to encouraging appreciation of civic values through community service activities. The graduation ceremony was held at Al Helo hotel in Gaza on 27 April 2016 in the presence of UNRWA Deputy Director of Operations in Gaza, Ms. Melinda Young, UNRWA senior education staff, parents and students. It included speeches, Palestinian folklore activities, a choir performance, a musical show, awarding of essay prizes and distribution of certificates. The 382 students were selected from UNRWA schools based on their scores on English language exams (minimum 90 per cent) as an indicator of their learning potential. The English Access Micro-scholarship programme allows students to develop their problem-solving and debating skills as well as their critical thinking ability and enhances their community engagement. The programme helps students better prepare for educational and career opportunities that enable them to contribute to their societies' development. It also opens doors to a variety of opportunities such as exchange and study abroad programs including YES and Abraham Lincoln scholarships. Since 2003 more than 12,000 students in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem have benefited from the programme. Around 4,000 of them have come from Gaza where they study at UNRWA schools, governmental schools and private schools who met the programme selection criteria.
In preparation of the scholastic year 2017-2018, UNRWA field Education Programme in Gaza held the first round of exams for recruiting new teachers. On 1 May, 7,426 candidates took the written exam for the first round of competition for the school subjects of lower elementary education, physical education, educational technology, arts, and computer sciences. The exams were held at 13 UNRWA schools across Gaza, supervised by 878 education staff. The exams, lasting three hours, were prepared by education specialists of the UNRWA Education Programme to ensure a transparent competition that allows for the selection of the most-qualified candidates. Exams for the other subjects will be held on 1 June. UNRWA sees education as a major investment in dignity, human development and a measure of stability for Palestine refugees. The Education Programme in Gaza is UNRWA’s largest and despite the fragile situation, lack of infrastructure and financial constraints, the Agency successfully manages 267 schools currently attended by 262,000 students – a figure that is growing at a rate of approximately 4 percent every year - who are taught and supervised by over 8,300 teachers.
To improve environmental health and create short term employment opportunities, in April, the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP) implemented a cleaning campaign in Jabalia camp – located just north of Gaza city and one of eight Palestine refugee camps in the Gaza Strip - and surrounding areas. The campaign aimed at removing sand, dust and garbage from the camp’s streets. To do so, the Agency hired 25 labourers and two foremen for this project, implemented in cooperation with the UNRWA sanitation office which provided the required equipment such as trucks and caterpillars. In total, over 100,000 beneficiaries living in the camp benefitted from the campaign. In the first quarter of 2017, UNRWA created skilled and unskilled job opportunities for 9,092 beneficiaries through the JCP, injecting US$ 4.6 million into the Gaza economy.
To celebrate International Day of the Midwife and International Nurses Day, UNRWA organized an event honouring the work and dedication of its midwives and nurses, on 1st May in Jabalia health centre, northern Gaza. The celebration included songs, poems, show videos and a Dabkah performance. UNRWA employs around 94 midwives, 174 practical nurses and 62 staff nurses working in 22 Health Centres across the Gaza Strip. Midwives work with women and their families, throughout the cycle of maternal health care, from preconception care, through ante– and postnatal care to family planning. Nurses work with families during the entire life cycle, providing support with out-patient primary health care. Their tasks are varied, from infant monitoring to follow-up on patients with non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.
On 2 May, the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) held an activity in Jabalia Preparatory school “B”, north Gaza, under the title ”Tomorrow is a New Day”. The activity aims to reinforcing the importance of mental health. The activity included theatre, dance and songs. 80 female and 12 male UNRWA students attended the activity, in addition to teachers and parents. The CMHP maintains a network of 287 counsellors and 82 psychosocial facilitators in UNRWA schools, in addition to 21 counsellors and five legal advisors in UNRWA’s Health Centres. They provide a package of integrated mental health and psychological support interventions including life skills, structured psychosocial and guidance sessions, as well as individual and group counseling which is critical in a context marked by blockade, deteriorating socio-economic conditions, recurrent violence and restrictions on movement and access.
Bassma Asfour: why we can’t live in peace equally with all the children around the world
Bassma Asfour and Farah El-Halabi, two ninth grade UNRWA students both have been named winners of the 2017 Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest by the US National Park Service and International World Peace Rose Gardens. The competition celebrates messages of peace written by youth throughout the world. More than 12,300 students from across the globeparticipated in the competition this year.
Bassma, a Palestine refugee child, lives with her family in Abassan in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, where she attends Abassan Preparatory Girls School.
“I participated with my poem “Seeds of Peace”, although I lived through three conflicts and know what it means to feel fear andworry and to be scared of losing your family or friends, but I still believe in peace. Children have nothing to do with conflicts. Why should we live in all this suffering and fear? Why don’t all children in the world live in peace?,” Bassma, whose family lost and had to rebuild their home three times following the conflicts in 2008/2009, 2012 and 2014, said.
The awards ceremony will be held on 11 May at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Yet it is out of reach for these two young Palestine refugees due to the blockade on Gaza – which will have existed for ten years in June 2017 – and associated movement restrictions which means that travel outside of the enclave is severely restricted. For Bassma, the solution is peace. =“At school we learn about human rights but many of these rights such as the right to movement and the right to live in safety is denied to us. We we can’t practice these rights until we live in peace. Peace is the solution to all this suffering.”
“Every day at school, I talk to the children about peace and human rights. Human rights and peace exist. In a place where they seem absent, it is even more important to talk about them,” Amani Kullab, human rights teacher in Abassan Preparatory Girls School added.
Engraved plaques with the students’ messages will be displayed in the rose gardens for one year. With over 700,000 visitors every year, Bassma’s and Farah’s messages of peace will reach hundreds of thousands.
UNRWA has a long-standing commitment, as a UN agency to teach students about the foundations of human rights and the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UNRWA integrates human rights concepts throughout its more than 267 schools in Gaza as well as in the schools in the four other areas of operation through its Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) education programme. Additionally, in Gaza, every week, all 262,000 students in grades one through nine take a stand-alone human rights class teaching tolerance and respect for human rights. UNRWA’s education programme serves Sustainable Development Goal number four, which calls for inclusive and quality education for all and the promotion of lifelong learning.
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. More information can be found here.
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.