20 May 2017
• To build on existing communication channels with the community, and expressing UNRWA solidarity with the Palestine refugees in Gaza during the current energy crisis which is compounded by the desperate situation caused by cyclical conflict and a devastated economy after almost ten years of blockade, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack held a press conference in Gaza Field Office. During the press conference, Mr. Schack addressed many issues including the impact on UNRWA services in light of the increasing demands from refugees due to the Gaza blockade, the impact of the electricity cuts on the population of Gaza, unemployment and youth in Gaza. From his position, he also called on the international community and the leaderships of the Palestinian people to work hard in the reconciliation to help create a better future and prospect for the population in Gaza. The blockade on Gaza is not just political terminology; it is also not a natural disaster that just “happened”. The blockade on Gaza is man-made, and it is about real lives, about real stories. It is time to give Gaza, and its youth, its future back. The blockade must be lifted.
Also read: UN agency warns of crisis deterioration in blockaded Gaza
and Gaza residents suffer from acute power shortage
• Spokesperson Mr. Chris Gunness hosted an informal workshop with Gaza PIO aimed at developing skills for creating and pitching stories to international audiences. The group also discussed a series of “transformative stories” for a fundraising campaign aimed at the Arab world during Ramadan. While in Gaza, Chris Gunness also hosted a structured workshop on 15 May for senior staff from the Front Office, Programme Chiefs, Area Offices, the Emergency prograrmme and PIO. The purpose of the workshop was to equip staff with the capacity to deal with difficult questions under pressure. The group discussed the sorts of questions they faced from staff, beneficiaries and donors; they were then coached and interviewed as if on live television, which was followed by a review and a discussion led by Mr. Gunness.
• The field Education Programme’s Education in Emergencies (EiE) project, a three-month project providing students with various activities ranging from recreational and physical activities, to art and other interventions. Over the last two months, 150,566 students from 155 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip participated in the various activities of the project. On 8 May, The UNRWA Gaza Field Office Education Programme celebrated the closing ceremony of the project in Asma’a Preparatory Girls in Beach camp, western Gaza. The ceremony was attended by Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Ms. Melinda Young, Chief, Field Education Programme, Mr. Farid Abu-Athra, Area Education Officers, teachers, students and parents. During the ceremony, 600 UNRWA schools students delivered sports performances, songs, music and dabka dance. Through projects such as this, UNRWA contributes to achieving the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the third goal, which calls for ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages and SDG number four, which calls for ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.
•Through its field Microfinance Programme, UNRWA in Gaza helps address the needs of the entrepreneurial and unbanked sector of the community, including low-income Palestine refugees. In the first quarter of 2017, between January and March, the programme disbursed 1,344 loans worth more than US$1.9 million. It also provided fresh graduates, university students and professionals with a variety of technical training opportunities, including sessions on job hunting, project management and gender awareness. During the same quarter, the Microfinance Programme conducted at a total of 31 courses for 598 participants. Almost 41 per cent of participants were women, and 54 per cent were youth aged less than 30 years. UNRWA launched the microfinance initiative in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in the early 1990s and expanded operations to Syria and Jordan in 2003. Since 1991, the Programme in Gaza has issued almost 120,000 loans worth more than US$154 million.
• As a sign of appreciation for their long years of service, UNRWA honoured two teachers and one health staff member on completing 40 years of service in UNRWA during 2017. The celebration was held at the UNRWA Gaza Field Office in the presence of the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, and senior staff from the field Education and Health Programmes. At the conclusion of the event, Mr. Bo Schack handed the colleagues certificates and medals as a token of appreciation from the Agency’s Commissioner-General Mr. Pierre Krahenbuhl and in recognition of their dedication and hard work.
• Israeli patrol boats fired towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. One injury was reported.
• Israeli troops positioned at the perimeter fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. On each occasion, no injuries were reported. On 7 May, five bulldozers entered approximately 70 metres in the Middle Area in Gaza Strip, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation, and they withdrew on the same day.
• Human rights organizations in Gaza organized a sit-in and a press conference on 9 May, calling the world to intervene against the blockade on the Gaza strip. Other protests included against the continued Palestinian Authority decision to deduct employees' salaries in Gaza. Sit-ins continued during the reporting week in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who have gone on a hunger strike in Israeli jails. The de facto authorities organized a sit-in in Gaza city, to mark the 69th anniversary of Palestinian Nakba Day (The year 1948 war).
Eleven-year-old Shahed Al-Qirnawi is a Palestine refugee who lives in Bureij Camp, in the middle of the Gaza Strip.
Shahed has the same hopes and dreams as any child across the world. She was born blind and is a student in the
UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI).
Over the past year, the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza has implemented the Vision Project. It aims to supplement and enrich the teaching of visually impaired children through the use of modern technology, particularly through tablet computers and Voice Dream Reader software. This software allows blind and low-vision students to use their tablet computers in order to ‘read with their ears’. All text is read by a voice in Arabic, enabling young learners to improve their quality of life like sighted peers by exposing to technology using google, access emails, digital books and other online documents. Further, the curriculum with all its subjects is imported to the students’ and teachers’ tablet computers.
“Since I started to study here I used textbooks in the braille technique,” Shahed added. ”Now I use both braille and digital textbooks through the tablet computer. It is easier, faster and lighter, and through it, I can listen to my lessons with greater flexibility”
The Vision Project contributes to the Agency’s aim to provide quality education to all Palestine refugees in Gaza
The RCVI is part of the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) in Gaza and offers rehabilitation, education and recreational activities for visually impaired children aged between four and 12 years. It is the only centre in Gaza providing these types of services to approximately 500 students studying in the RCVI.
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.