19 June 2015
9 -16 June/Issue 97
• On 15 June at the opening of the UNRWA Advisory Commission (Adcom) in Amman, the UNRWA Commissioner General Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl powerfully underlined the growing frustration and vulnerability of Palestine refugees in the Middle East by saying that “their isolation, exclusion and dispossession represent a time-bomb for the region, a denial of dignity and rights that must be addressed.” Mr. Krähenbühl also highlighted the remarkable ability of UNRWA to continue operations in crisis situations such as Gaza and Syria. In addition, the Commissioner-General focused on the serious financial crisis the Agency is facing, which affects not only core activities but also emergency appeals and projects. UNRWA currently faces a shortfall for core activities to cover the year 2015 of US$ 101 million. Mr. Krähenbühl finished his opening speech by wishing for an honest, open and far-reaching Adcom-debate to hear suggestions, views and potential solutions to move UNRWA into a place where it can assume its full mandate. “I want UNRWA@65 to stand not for misery and poverty alleviation but for hope and dignity,” he concluded.
• UNRWA remains committed to maintaining the delivery of a solid basic education to all Palestine refugee children in our areas of operation, including Gaza. UNRWA school students are currently on summer break, after finishing their second semester final exams on 28 May, in 252 UNRWA schools. The new school year is set to commence on 17 August for teachers and 23 August students. To date, 31,744 new first graders have registered at UNRWA schools across Gaza, to start learning in the 2015/2016 school year.
• UNRWA has started implementing the first stage of the Deir El Balah camp improvement pilot project, south of Gaza city. Focussed on setting the project’s priority interventions through community involvement, this first stage, based on innovative surveys and focus groups, enhances the refugee community in Deir el Balah camp’s participation in the implementation of the project. Camp representatives together with UNRWA’s on-site project team are engaging diverse focus groups to discuss camp improvement priorities. Focus group meetings started on 31 May. UNRWA has also completed a training of surveyors in charge of a socio-economic camp survey that will also contribute to identify needs in the camp. A short film on the town hall meeting where the announcement was made as well as on the camp itself produced and broadcast by UNRWA TV is also being aired on the Deir El Balah Camp Website and Gaza staff portal. This US$ 40 million pilot project is supported by the Programme of the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Reconstruction of Gaza through the Islamic Development Bank.
• During the reporting week, the UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks (SFW) team started job interviews for potential candidates to work during the SFWs in different positions and schools across the Gaza Strip. In total, approximately 2,500 persons will be hired through the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP) for short-term SFWs employment opportunities. For these posts, UNRWA has received 54,178 applications of which 39,158 candidates fulfill all required criteria and are eligible for the next stage of recruitment. The interviews for clerks and animators have started on 13 June; the hiring process and signing of contracts for the recruited staff will take place in the lead up to SFW. Being hired for a short-term employment opportunity as clerk or animator during the SFW does not affect chances for another long-term JCP contract. To date, the UNRWA SFW team has already hired 86 JCP staff to help for the preparations of the SFWs. The SFWs will take place from 25 July to 13 August 2015.
• On 8 June, UNRWA in Gaza commenced its Summer Learning Programme (SLP) to further support students who have failed Arabic, Mathematics or both in their previous exams. The SLP, prepared by UNRWA Education Specialists for all five fields of operation, is an opportunity for students to move to the next grade level. The programme runs for 18 days after which the students are able to sit the SLP final exams on 29 and 30 June. This year 25,600 students – of 240,000 in total, across Gaza – have registered with UNRWA’s SLP. The SLP was initially introduced in 2008.
• During the first half of 2015, the Operations Support Office at UNRWA in Gaza delivered 27 training sessions to 765 UNRWA staff members on United Nations Humanitarian Principles such as Humanity, Neutrality, Impartiality and Operational Independence, and Protection. 514 UNRWA installation managers across the Gaza Strip – including school principals, area education officers and senior medical officers – were trained in 19 sessions and 251 newly appointed teachers and health programme staff members were trained on the same UN principles over 8 sessions. The UNRWA Operations Support Office team in Gaza delivers comprehensive skills training throughout the year on an ongoing basis to ensure and improve the skills and knowledge of UNRWA staff to carry out their duties in a professional and principled manner
• Shelter update:
2. US$ 216 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 504 million.
3. Due to the lack of funding, to date, 50,839 families have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 7,698 have not received the second tranche to continue repair works. 415 refugee families still wait for their rental subsidy payment covering the period from September to December 2014 and 2,921 families are waiting for the first and second quarter of 2015 payments. 4,655 families have not received their US$ 500 reintegration grant to replace lost household goods. UNRWA has processed all these cases and they have received approval through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; as soon as funding is secured the Agency can distribute the urgently needed financial support.
4. Almost one year after the beginning of last summer’s conflict and more than nine months after the ceasefire, not a single totally destroyed home has been rebuilt in Gaza. As of 15 June, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 138,406 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the July/August armed hostilities, 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. In addition, 4,939 shelters have suffered severe, 3,635 major and 120,715 minor damages. The Agency has only received funding to reconstruct 200 of the 9,117 totally destroyed homes. The families have been identified and 85 of them have already prepared the design and building permits.
• Against the backdrop of the 2014 report on children and armed conflict that was published by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, has issued a statement titled “children are not soldiers”. In his statement, he underlines the dramatic increase in the number of children killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). With 557 children killed in total during 2014, the Opt has the third highest number of children killed in the world after Afghanistan (710) and Iraq (679). The high death toll was caused by last summer’s conflict in Gaza where at least 540 children were killed, 70 per cent of them less than 12 years old, according to Mr. Mladenov. According to the statement, the number of Palestinian child casualties in this last conflict exceeds the combined number killed during the two previous escalations. The report, said Mladenov, makes “unmistakably clear how angry the United Nations General-Secretary is with what happened to the children of Gaza last year” and that the killing of children in Gaza “cannot remain without consequences.”
• On June 11 Israeli issued a report by the Military Advocate General (MAG). As reported in the New York Times, the report indicates that upon completion of the investigation into the incident on the beach that killed four children, the MAG decided no criminal charges will be filed nor any disciplinary action be taken against those involved in airstrikes. In addition, on 14 June the Israeli Foreign Ministry published a 270-page report “The 2014 Gaza Conflict: 7 July to 26 August 2014: Factual and Legal Aspects.” The report comes ahead of an upcoming report by the UN Human Rights Council on the 2014 summer conflict
Operational environment: In the lead up to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, several news articles have highlighted the devastating economic situation in Gaza this week, talking about the difficulties Gazans face to make ends meetand the psychological pressure, trauma of loss, frustration and isolation that are prevailing in the Strip. On 9 June a 34-old man allegedly set himself on fire in his house in Beach Camp in Gaza city in what was reported as an attempt to commit suicide due to his difficult living conditions.
In an interview with Al Monitor on 13 June the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, called again for a lifting of all closures on Gaza and a speeding up of the reconstruction process.
The Egyptian government has decided to open the Rafah border crossing on 13 June for an initial three days to allow Palestinians to travel in and out of the territory for the first time in three months, according to media reports.
On 20 May the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)issued a report about the easing measures undertaken by COGAT for the Palestinian population. The report mentions the authorization of the marketing of agricultural produce and industrial goods from Gaza to the West Bank; to date, over 3,500 tons have been marketed of which 2,966 tons are agricultural produce, 35 tons textiles, 510 tons furniture, 5 tons foodstuffs and 57 tons miscellaneous goods. Between September 2014 and September 2015, 620 tons of agricultural goods were sold in Israel itself, according to the COGAT report. Prior to the blockade the West Bank and Israel absorbed 85 per cent of the goods exported from Gaza.
Protests in Gaza continued to occur on a daily basis, most of them were demanding a lifting of the blockade, cash assistance for orphan families or against perceived cuts of UNRWA services due to the difficult financial situation the Agency finds itself in.
On 11 June an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) detonated in an open area Khan Younis and injured a 30-year old civilian with shrapnel.
“IT IS MORE PRECISE AND SAVES TIME”- UNRWA’S REFORMED POVERTY ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
Haifa Al Hayek has been employed as a social worker with the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) for the past four years. At the end of May 2015, the Agency resumed its poverty assessment home visits after an almost one year interruption during which it was working on improving the quality and fairness of the assessment process. Haifa has played a critical role in these visits for the Poverty Assessment System (PAS).
“We as social workers were very excited about the new system and we hope that it will be positively perceived by the beneficiaries as well,” commented Haifa, who like all social workers undertook an extensive capacity building training on PAS.
The use of new technology in form of tablet-based data collection is a key component of PAS and is designed to improve the accuracy and rapidity of the process.” After an in-depth training using tablets, it is now much easier for us than filling in the paper work; it is more precise and professional and saves time and effort. We also explain to the beneficiaries why we use this new technique to cast away all their suspicions and gain their confidence,” Haifa said.
Families whose poverty status needs to be assessed are referred to social workers by a focal point in each RSSP area office, and UNRWA social workers then coordinate a home visit. Cases are identified according to priorities. Currently, UNRWA social workers are assessing 20,000 such priority cases, including new applicant families who applied for food assistance prior to the conflict but were not assessed and families who filed appeals against their assessment as non-poor and who thus have to be re-assessed. After the assessment of these priority cases UNRWA will continue with the regular cycle of poverty assessment for those already in the caseload and ongoing new applicants.
Due to the Israeli-imposed blockade and repeated armed conflicts, the Gaza economy is at the brink of collapse and poverty and unemployment rates are on the rise. Currently almost 868,000 Palestine refugees depend on food aid from UNRWA – approximately half of Gaza’s 1.76 million total population and 65 percent of the registered refugees– and the Agency expects this number may rise to one million by the end of 2015.
“Due to the hard living conditions and lack of job opportunities an increasing number of people is seeking assistance from UNRWA,” said Haifa.
UNRWA will serve all those who are assessed as eligible for food assistance and there is no maximum number of food aid beneficiaries.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the fence with Israel or at Palestinian boats almost on a daily basis.
On 10 June three Israeli tanks and four bulldozers entered approximately 100 metres into Palestinian areas in Kahn Younis to conduct a clearing and excavation operation.
On 11 June militants fired one rocket towards Israel; the rocket dropped short inside Palestinian areas near to the security fence. No injuries or damages were reported.
On 14 June militants fired three test rockets towards the sea.
US$ 216 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 504 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.
• The Rafah Crossing was closed from 9 to 12 June. It was open from 13 to 15 June in both directions. On 13 June 228 persons entered Gaza, 622 crossed into Egypt and 23 were denied entry into Egypt. On 14 June 309 persons entered Gaza and 516 crossed to Egypt.
• The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 9-11 and 14-15 June. On 12 June, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 13 June.
• Kerem Shalom was open from 9 to 12 June and 14 and 15 June. It was closed on 11 June.