22 July 2017
• The Gaza Strip is suffering from a humanitarian crisis, epitomized by cyclic violence and destruction, the chronic fuel and water crises and the glaring absence of any sustainable socio-economic improvements to the distressed economy. The blockade on Gaza entered its 11th year in June 2017. The United Nations has repeatedly highlighted the illegality of the blockade, which continues to hamper freedom of movement of people and goods, as a form of collective punishment and called for its full lifting. During June 2017, 7,227 truckloads entered Gaza. The volume of goods that entered this month was 29% below the monthly average recorded since the beginning of 2017, 35% below the monthly average in the first half of 2007 (before the blockade) and the lowest volume recorded since July 2015. According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in June 2017, 113 truckloads exited Gaza. The volume of truckloads that exited was 20% below the equivalent figure in June of 2016 and 88% below the monthly average in the first half of 2007, before the imposition of the blockade. The vast majority of exports consist of agricultural produce. Yet robust recovery of the agricultural sector in Gaza continues to be hindered by stringent quotas on the quantity and variety of produce allowed for export, severe restrictions on imports of relevant raw materials and goods classified by Israel as ‘dual use’-items, such as fertilizers, wood panels and steel pipes. In addition, any produce allowed to exit Gaza faces long delays due to prolonged inspections at the only crossing for goods currently in operation, Kerem Shalom, leading to a decrease in quality and freshness or even to spoilage. Inside Gaza, access restrictions for Palestinian farmers to their agricultural land located near the perimeter fence with Israel – the so-called Access Restricted Areas – bar farmers from adequately tending to their land.
• During the reporting week, as part of regular outreach visits, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack visited six Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) locations in Gaza city and Jabalia camp, northern Gaza Strip. During the visit, he met with and talked to some of the many children taking part in the 2017 SFWs and listened to SFWs staff who shared the challenges they face and made suggestions. This year, UNRWA is for the first time organizing a one week student camp: 38 UNRWA students from the West Bank aged between 12 to 14 years old and accompanied by 9 supervisors joined UNRWA students in Gaza for cultural exchange, building new friendships and sharing of personal experiences. The camp includes different activities such as visits to Palestinian heritage places in Gaza, joint cultural activities, football and basketball matches between the students and leadership development activities. The SFWs take place from 8 to 27 July in 125 locations across the Gaza Strip, including locations suitably equipped for the participation of children with disabilities. With more than 190,000 children having registered this summer, activities include a variety of sports, arts and educational activities to give the children a chance to play, learn and express themselves in a safe and secure environment and to acquire the social values of team spirit, respect and cooperation. UNRWA has also devised area-specific activities such as ‘Rethink and Recycle’ in Rafah, the ‘Expo Tech’ exhibition in Khan Younis, English SFW activities in the Middle Area, Sea Messages in Gaza Area and the ‘Equity and Equality’ initiative in north Gaza. New activities include the UNRWA School Choir and the Student Ambassador programme. The SFWs are one of the Agency’s measures to address the psychosocial impact of repeated armed conflict, blockade and dire socio-economic conditions in Gaza on children. Importantly, the SFWs create a total of 2,420 short term job opportunities for mostly young unemployed Palestine refugees through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme.
• 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 programme, 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 per cent every year - who are taught and supervised by around 8,500 teachers. 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 Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) education programme. Additionally, in Gaza, every week, students in grades one through nine take a stand-alone human rights class teaching tolerance and respect for human rights. School parliaments – of which every UNRWA school in Gaza has one – help to promote a culture of human rights in schools and strengthen democratic practices and life among students. They also teach children civil and social skills, including leadership, participation, decision-making and communication. 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.
• On 13 July, the Envoys of the Middle East Quartet – composed of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - met in Jerusalem to discuss current efforts to advance Middle East peace, as well as the deteriorating situation in Gaza. The Envoys expressed serious concern over the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed current efforts to resolve the crisis. The Envoys from the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations agreed to meet again and to continue their regular engagement with Israelis and Palestinians, and key regional stakeholders. Further evidence for the worsening situation in Gaza – but also ideas for positive change - was released this week: On 12 July UNDP issued a report titled “Three Years After the 2014 Gaza Hostilities - Beyond Survival: Challenges to Economic Recovery and Long-Term Development”. The report provides an analysis of the main challenges that are currently dominating Gaza’s business environment, three years after the 2014 hostilities, and proposes a fresh approach to support Gaza’s private sector to thrive, not just to survive. It also highlights that Gaza’s economy has been virtually stagnant for the past ten years, with average annual real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate over the decade not exceeding 1.44%, while Gaza’s population grew by 3.84% over the same period. According to the report, more GDP growth will be required in order to reduce Gaza’s chronic unemployment, currently standing at 40.6%, and improve livelihoods. To read the full report, please click here.
Israeli patrol boats opened fire two days, towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. Two injured were reported.
Civilians, mostly youth, staged protests near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza against the blockade. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. Two injuries were reported.
Various other protests were held during the week, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to demand UNRWA and other UN services.
Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.
Fifteen-year-old, Bara’a Abu Nada, a Palestine refugee girl, participates in a drawing activity during Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) in the UNRWA Beit Lahia
Preparatory Girls (A) School, northern Gaza Strip. © 2017 UNRWA Gaza Photo by Tamer Hamam
Fifteen-year-old, Bara’a Abu Nada, a Palestine refugee girl from Jabalia camp, northern Gaza Strip is an enthusiastic participant in Summer Fun Weeks in the Beit Lahia Preparatory Girls School (A). To enable a maximum number of students to participate every Summer Fun Weeks location works double shifts - morning and afternoon. For each shift, the children are divided into nine groups with each group participating in two activities during the day. Activities have been devised to give the children a chance to play, learn and express themselves in a safe and secure environment and to acquire the social values of team spirit, respect and cooperation and include sports, arts and educational activities.
“I knew about Summer Fun Weeks from my classmates who participated last year: how much they enjoyed their time, how they met new friends, had fun and learned new things. So I asked my family if I could apply this year and they agreed. They said it’s in the school, so it’s a safe and trusted place,” Bara’a said.
UNRWA has devised area-specific activities such as ‘Rethink and Recycle’ in Rafah, the ‘Expo Tech’ exhibition in Khan Younis, English SFW activities in the Middle Area, Sea Messages in Gaza Area and the ‘Equity and Equality’ initiative in north Gaza. New activities include the UNRWA School Choir and the Student Ambassador programme as well as Students Camp a one-week camping experience which will be joined by UNRWA students from the West Bank – a rare opportunity for children to engage with their peers from other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory.
“My hobby is drawing. Last summer I spent my time drawing alone at home, but this year I decided to attend Summer Fun Weeks because they provide me with all needed drawing materials. I also have the opportunity to work with art teachers and get professional advice. In addition to the drawing classes, I enjoyed the ‘Equity and Equality’ sessions because I learned new things and now believe that women and men have equal rights,” Bara’a said happily.
For three weeks, from 8 to 27 July, around 190,000 registered refugee children participate in the SFWs, which will take place over three cycles covering 125 locations across the Gaza Strip, including locations suitably equipped for the participation of children with disabilities. The SFWs do not only provide Palestine refugee children with a chance to alleviate the stress and pressures of daily life in Gaza, they also offer a number of Gaza youth temporary work opportunities. The 2017 SFWs project offers about 2,420 short-term job opportunities with UNRWA to registered refugees through its Job Creation Programme.
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$ 295 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$ 425 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.