Gaza Situation Report 227

16 July 2018
Sulafa products. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

26 June  – 10 July | issue 227

Highlights

  • Halfway through 2018, and due to its determined resource mobilization efforts, UNRWA has succeeded to maintain its operations across five fields and to reduce the initial budget shortfall of US$ 446 million by US$ 238 million. This brings the total remaining shortfall down to US$ 217 million. This shortfall is still far higher than any UNRWA has ever faced in its history, and while resource mobilization efforts continue, with the current cash flow forecast, the continuity of UNRWA operations will be at serious risk in August.

    Given the severe funding shortfall under the Emergency Appeal for the oPt, UNRWA is required to re-prioritize some emergency interventions in line with the Agency’s humanitarian mandate to assist those refugees with the most critical needs.

    With poverty and unemployment rates at very high levels, and almost one million refugees depending on food aid from UNRWA, providing food assistance is an absolute humanitarian necessity and a priority. UNRWA is, therefore, taking all measures possible to protect this vital assistance. This inevitably includes review and adjustments of other emergency interventions, such as the Community Mental Health Progamme, the Job Creation Programme, and transitional shelter cash assistance. Throughout this process - which is still ongoing - UNRWA’s senior management is committed to doing its utmost in order to protect staff and services to refugees to the greatest extent possible.

  • On 30 June, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Matthias Schmale published an article in This Week in Palestine magazine entitled; “An UNRWA Perspective on Sustainable Development in Gaza.” In this article, Mr. Schmale wrote: “Over the past months, I have met countless well-trained and highly educated Palestinians in Gaza with an impressive entrepreneurial mindset and who – against all odds – remain motivated and determined to make the best out of their lives. Achieving sustainable development must therefore be first and foremost about opening up the space and opportunities for Gaza’s people to realize their enormous development potential […] While the biggest obstacle to sustainable development in Gaza is the blockade and the absence of a political horizon for Palestinians, everything possible must be done to keep horizons open and to enable opportunities.” The article also details UNRWA’s contribution to the personal and economic development of refugees in Gaza, for example through the provision of education, vocational training, primary healthcare, and job opportunities.

  • From 5 to 9 July, UNRWA was able to distribute frozen meat to approximately 4,992 Palestine refugee families (27,509 individuals) across the Gaza Strip. The distribution took place in seven distribution centres and benefited especially large refugee families (at least five family members)  who are registered under UNRWA’s Social Safety Net Programme and classified to subsist on less than US$ 1.74 per person per day. Each family received 6 kilogrammes of frozen meat.

  • UNRWA continues to implement a total of 12 infrastructure projects worth US$ 49.15 million, while 21 projects worth US$ 31.37 million are awaiting implementation. In June, UNRWA imported 16 trucks of construction materials included on the list of dual-use items such as cement, white cement, steel pipes, steel reinforcement bars, raw materials and elevators for ongoing UNRWA infrastructure projects. 14 trucks were loaded with cement, and 2 trucks for steel raw materials for Rafah log base.

The UNRWA Shelter Update

Activities in June 2018:

Completed cases:

  • 91 reconstruction cases have been completed.
  • 72 families have received their first installment to start the reconstruction.

Disbursement of payments

  • In total UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 2.23 million for shelter assistance:
    • For reconstruction: US$ 2,183,816
    • For repair: US$ 50,925

Operational Environment

Between 26 June and 8 July, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip on nine occasions, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.

Between 26 June and 9 July, Israeli forces positioned at the border fence and opened fire towards Palestinian areas on 29 occasions. One fatality was reported.

Between 26 June and 10 July, civilians, including many youths, continued to participate in a number of protests under the slogan “Great Return March” near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza. Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. According to OCHA and WHO, since the start of “Great Return March” on 30 March until 1 July, 143 Palestinians (123 men, 1 woman, 18 boys and 1 girl) were killed and 15,242 were injured. The total figure of fatalities includes 110 Palestinians killed during demonstrations and 33 killed in other incidents; among the latter are six people whose bodies are being reportedly withheld by the Israeli authorities.

Between 26 June and 1 July, Israeli Forces fired six missiles targeting militants training locations across the Gaza Strip in response to mortar shells fired by militants

On 2 July, an 18-year-old Palestinian woman committed suicide by hanging herself inside an apartment in Gaza City.

On 4 July, the UNRWA Local Staff Union organized a gathering in front of the UNRWA Gaza Field Office in solidarity with staff funded under the UNRWA Emergency Appeal for the oPt whose jobs are at risk due to the Agency’s large financial shortfall for emergency interventions in the oPt. Approximately 800 persons participated in the event which lasted an hour and a half.

UNRWA’s Response

At UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Centre:
Providing income-generating opportunities to Palestine refugee women

Ibrahim Muhtadi, Manager (left) and Aysha Basuoni, Business Development Officer, at the UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Centre in Gaza City. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Mohammed Yaghi
Ibrahim Muhtadi, Manager (left) and Aysha Basuoni, Business Development Officer, at the UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Centre in Gaza City. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Mohammed Yaghi

UNRWA through the Sulafa Embroidery Centre seeks to enhance women’s income-earning options in the context of Gaza’s dire socio-economic situation. The Sulafa Centre has been established and operated by UNRWA since 1950 and cooperates with a network of nine Community-Based Organizations across the Gaza Strip in the production and sale of embroidery goods.

35-year-old Ibrahim Muhtadi, who manages the Sulafa Embroidery Centre, said: “I have been working as manager of Sulafa for more than a year and a half now. I have seen many success stories of women who learned embroidery and thereby developed their own source of income. Not only do we provide women with income-generating opportunities, but we also help them expand their social network and build new friendships in a society that imposes many restrictions on women.”

Ibrahim added: “Like any other business, Sulafa faces challenges especially that embroidery is labour-intensive and time-consuming work. The economic situation in Gaza has affected our sales in the local market, so we are seeking now new markets by approaching international audiences.” Ibrahim also explained that “due to the blockade, it is not easy to leave Gaza and market the centre and its products. One solution is to rely on online platforms, including our website and the Facebook page. We also participate in international and national bazaars through volunteers and official representatives on behalf of the Sulafa team.”

The Sulafa Project aims to provide meaningful and sustainable income for women using and developing their artisanal skills and connecting them with local and international markets. By now, Sulafa is well known for its handmade pillows, shawls, handbags, small purses and ornaments in traditional Palestinian designs or modern colours.

“Through embroidery, I feel productive and earn a living that enables me to provide for me and my nine-member family in addition to my mother. I feel so proud that our traditional Palestinian handmade products reach other places around the world. The positive feedback we receive from Sulafa and the customers is really encouraging,” explains 28-year- old Maha Abu El Roos, a Palestine refugee widow who lives in Deir El- Balah Camp.

Recently, the Sulafa Embroidery Centre was selected by the International Folk Art Market as one of the five finalists for an artist award; the awards will be presented at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market which will take place on 13 and 14 July 2018 in the United States. The International Folk Art Market honours artists or artist organizations that are extraordinary examples of their mission to preserve living folk art traditions and create economic opportunities for and with folk artists. The community impact award goes to an organization that has had a positive impact on social change in their community.

“This year is the seventh time for Sulafa to participate in the International Folk Art Market. It is one of the important events which help Sulafa reach international clients and build good and sustainable relationships and networks”, said,” 36-year-old, Aysha Basuoni, Business Development Officer at Sulafa.

Over time, Sulafa has become more than a livelihood programme for women. It is also a way to preserve the traditions and culture of embroidery within the Palestinian society and pass the stories and skills from one generation to the next. With women’s economic activity mainly in unpaid agricultural work, low-paid and informal employment, women are at a higher risk of exploitation and poor working conditions. Furthermore, the Israeli-imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and people further hinder women’s opportunities to access education, work and other opportunities outside of Gaza. Sulafa aims to respond to this need by supporting approximately 300 local artisans through commissioning traditional and contemporary embroidered goods. This approach allows women to support their families, which in Gaza often rely on only one source of income, if any. Opportunities are also particularly vital for widowed, divorced or abandoned women who due to traditional, gendered social norms and customs are in an even more vulnerable position. Moreover, Sulafa ensures that opportunities are available for women who, due to very conservative communities, are not allowed to work outside of their homes.

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’s emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. Prioritised needs in Gaza in relation to the 2018 oPt Emergency Appeal include US$ 80 million for the distribution of emergency food parcels to almost 1 million people, at least US$ 10 million for creating temporary cash-for-work opportunities through UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme as well as US$ 7 million for the Agency’s Community Mental Health Programme. Furthermore, following the 2014 conflict, US$ 316 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$ 404 million. UNRWA appeals to donors to generously contribute to its emergency shelter programme to support Palestine refugees to undertake repair or reconstruction of their damaged or demolished homes.

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 travelers, 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 travelers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.

Crossing

26 June

27 June

28 June

29 June

30 June

1 July

2 July

3 July

4 July

5 July

6 July

7 July

8 July

9 July

Rafah

Open.

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Erez

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open for humanitarian and medical cases only

Closed.

Open.

Open

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open for humanitarian and medical cases only

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Kerem Shalom

Open.

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees