21 October 2016
• To respond to questions from Gaza-based media, and to give an update on UNRWA’s services, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, gave a press briefing on 17 October at the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre. Around 25 media outlets were represented at the event, among them Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Donia Al Watan and Al Quds TV. During the press conference, the Director emphasized UNRWA’s achievements over the past months in terms of reconstruction and construction activities, education, health and other services. For example, he mentioned that to address the impact of the ever growing student population in Gaza, over the past year the Agency built between one and two new school buildings per month. A fact sheet on UNRWA’s operational achievements between January and September is attached. The Director also talked about the impact of the blockade on the people of Gaza, particularly its youth, and how the severe restrictions lead to more frustration, pessimism and, possibly, radicalization. He also answered questions from media on a wide range of topics, such as the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism or UNRWA’s role in addressing the unemployment situation.
• To build the capacity of vulnerable Gaza refugee youth, and to help increase their chances for employment in the local job market, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP), in cooperation with the Gaza Training Centre, is implementing vocational trainings in multimedia and photography as well as in solar heating. The trainings will last for five months, from October to March 2017, targeting 20 female and 20 male youth coming from poor and large households. The photography and multimedia training will last for a total of 200 hours and will focus on designing advertisements, website interfaces and animated advertisements or how to use a camera and process photos; the solar heating workshop includes 175 hours of training and consists of modules such as basic metalwork operations, how to operate and design solar systems or how to operate and maintain boilers, washing machines or heaters. RSSP aims to empower Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. It conducts activities through 14 Community-Based Organizations, seven Women Programme Centres (WPC) and seven Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRC) for persons with disabilities. Its Social Services Division contains five programmes which are: the Youth Programme, Elderly Programme, Orphan Programme, Women Programme and the Disability Programme.
• To further empower its front line staff and maintain closer community linkages, in 2010 UNRWA in Gaza set up its Chief Area Offices (CAO) in all five governorates of Gaza – North, Gaza, Middle Area, Khan Younis and Rafah. The Chief Area Officers have an UNRWA representative function at the area level and lead an area management team (AMT) in close collaboration with the Gaza Field Office. Over the past months, the UNRWA Operations Support Office (OSO) initiated the establishment of protection committees in each of the five areas, involving front line staff from the Agency’s health, education, relief and social services and mental health programmes. The committees are led by the CAOs – with support from OSO – and aim to support internal coordination, communication and response to protection concerns in the areas. Further, in September, the CAO in Rafah, southern Gaza, organized the tendering of almost 4,000 books for the public Rafah library, located inside an UNRWA school and completed by the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme in August 2016. Four fresh graduates were recruited through the Job Creation Programme to work in the library, supported by two UNRWA teachers. Emergency preparations for the coming winter and its potential flooding or storms are well under way in all five areas; these include the preparation of the distribution of non-food items, quality controls, eligibility checks etc. In addition, in Gaza and North areas over the month of September the Health Programme undertook a survey to gauge the satisfaction of beneficiaries with health services in four health centres; the sample included over 600 refugees. The results are currently being analyzed and will be shared at the next AMT meeting.
• UNRWA has distributed dream bags – containing crayons, handmade toys and dolls, balls, pens, coloured towels and letters written by Japanese students - to dozens of Palestine refugee students across Gaza, thanks to a generous contribution from RKK- a Japanese organization. The bags are being distributed to 6,550 students from grades one to nine, in 267 schools across the Gaza Strip. This activity targets some of the most vulnerable students in UNRWA schools. The distribution lasted from 9 to 13 October 2016, and is part of a project that aims at strengthening the relationship between Palestinian and Japanese children, the same as the annual kite flying event in solidarity with Japanese earthquake survivors. Also this week, the UNRWA Education Programme in Gaza organized a colouring event to colour the famous Japanese Kumamon character, marking another expression of solidarity and friendship with children who have been affected by an earthquake (the one that hit the Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan in April 2016). The event was organized in cooperation with RESULTS Japan - a non-profit advocacy organization. The event was held at UNRWA Al-Amal Prep Girls School and Khan Younis Prep Boys B School located in the Japanese (Al-Amal) neighbourhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Here, Japan contributed to building house units for thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes due to past armed conflicts. RESULTS Japan will introduce the drawings of UNRWA students at Japan’s biggest international cooperation event called “Global Festa” held in Tokyo which is attended by more than 100,000 visitors every year. It will also organize an exhibition for the coloured drawings – from children around the world including those from Gaza - during the visit of Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, to Japan in October 2016.
• During a briefing in Gaza on 13 October, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, expressed concerns over the situation in Gaza, emphasizing that Israel’s policies add pressure on the enclave and only “escalate violence”, as media reported. Mladenov also stated that Israel was not doing enough to lessen the blockade on Gaza, and he stressed that the current “calmness” must be maintained by focusing on reconstruction and economic development in Gaza. The Special Coordinator furthermore unveiled that the UN Security Council would hold a special session next week to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip, including bringing Israelis and Palestinians to meet over the reconstruction issue.
THE UNRWA SHELTER UPDATE
• UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 1.6 million for reconstruction (~US$ 882,000) and severe repair works (~US$ 759,000). The funds reached a total of 205 refugee families across Gaza; they were able to access their assistance this week.
Overview of assistance disbursed
As of 12 October 2016:
• The UNRWA shelter assessment confirmed 142,071 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally destroyed. 5,417 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 123,837 minor damages
• Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 213.7 million(excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the 2014 summer conflict.
Completed and ongoing payments
As 12 October 2016:
• UNRWA has completed the payments to 403 families for reconstruction, to over 67,060 refugee families for minor repair works, to 3,834 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, and to 14 families for major repair works.
• Payment transfers for over 920 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters and for over 11,070 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters are ongoing.
• UNRWA continues to pay transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for eligible refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict. All approximately 8,500 eligible families have received the first tranche of rental subsidy payments for 2016, and all approximately 8,000 eligible families received the second quarter payment. In 2015, UNRWA paid TSCA to approximately 9,000 eligible refugee families and from September to December 2014 13,250 families received rental subsidy payments.
Funding gaps and needs – reconstruction
UNRWA has secured funding to reconstruct 1,900 totally destroyed homes. Residential reconstruction has been delayed due to initial delays in agreeing a formula to import construction materials under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, complex documentation requirements related to proving title to land, obtaining building and municipal permit, as well as funding shortages in the longer term. For all reconstruction, UNRWA prioritizes families based on poverty status (an excellent indicator for vulnerability in this context) and larger families, unlike other reconstruction actors in Gaza. In order to mitigate the barriers these families face in particular, UNRWA outreach engineers assist eligible families in gathering relevant documentation.
• Payments to over 6,070 refugee families to start repairing their totally destroyed homes are outstanding.
• The total costs of reconstructing their homes amounts to approximately US$ 273.2 million
Funding gaps and needs – rental subsidy payments
• Approximately 7,000 eligible refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict are waiting to receive transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for the third quarter in 2016. The US$ 23.3 million in TSCA needed to assist the 2014 conflict emergency caseload in 2016 has been included in the oPt Emergency Appeal 2016.
Funding gaps and needs – repair works
For repairs of damages of all categories (minor, major and severe), the principal barrier to completing the outstanding repairs is funding. If current conditions remain, including adequate amounts of building material entering Gaza, UNRWA estimates that repairs could be completed within six months from receipt of sufficient funding.
• Over 60,150 families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 67.9 million).
• 3,195 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 28.7 million).
• Payments to 916 families to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes are outstanding (total estimate costs: US$ 8.2 million).
• Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of approximately 56,900 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments (first and second tranche payments) to these families immediately upon receipt of funding
• During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
A 10-year old Palestine refugee boy, Abdallah Abu Modef, was injured near the perimeter fence east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. He later died of his wounds. The exact circumstances of his death remain unclear.
Civilians, mostly youth, continued to protest near the perimeter fence expressing their eagerness to defend Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. When some of them approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gun fire and teargas. One person was injured.
Various other protests were held during the week, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails or to demand job opportunities from UNRWA.
A 63-year old man was reportedly found killed inside his apartment; in response, members from his family reportedly set ablaze a coffee shop of the family of the suspected killer. The shop sustained damage. Also during the week, one 28-year old man was found hanged inside his house. Further, one Palestinian entered Israel through the perimeter fence and was arrested. A family dispute took place during which fire arms were used. No injuries were reported.
Abdallah Ghazal (right) is following up on the reconstruction progress of Mohammed Saleh’s home
in Jabalia camp, northern Gaza. Photo credit: ©UNRWA Gaza 2016. Photo by Mohmmed Al-Hinnawi.
Through regular outreach visits, he conducts damage assessments and ensures affected families are informed about what documents they need to submit to be able to receive payments from UNRWA and access construction material. Has a family already started with reconstruction or repair works, Abdallah continues his regular visits to evaluate and monitor the reconstruction progress, a prerequisite for families to receive future instalments to continue the works.
“Through my work, I support affected families to return to their homes; we engineers ensure that they receive the right information at the right time, empowering families to make informed decisions,” Abdallah said.
Families usually approach the ICIP area office and inform the programme about their affected homes and need for assistance; engineers like Abdallah then go to visit the homes and assess the level of damage – categorizing it into minor, major or severe damage or totally destroyed. ICIP then submits the case through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism to the Palestinian and Israeli Governments for approval. Once approved, families are able to purchase the approved quantity of construction material from approved vendors, with payments provided by UNRWA.
Mohammad Saleh’s family home was totally destroyed and Abdallah helps him to manage the reconstruction process. One month ago Mohammad received his second payment from UNRWA after the construction progress had been assessed by Abdallah.
“I visit Abdallah in his office on a regular basis, he is used to answer all my questions and guide me through the procedures; without him I would be lost,” Mohammad commented.
“When I see families rebuilding their homes, this makes me happy, and I feel I achieved something big,” Abdallah added. “We engineers also regularly participate in community meetings to ensure the continuous flow of information about the reconstruction process and UNRWA’s services to the people.”
The ICIP was established to improve the living conditions of Palestine refugees through the planning, design and construction of UNRWA facilities, shelters, schools and health centres, as well as through comprehensive planning for the environmental health sector. ICIP offers technical assessments and follows up on construction in order to mitigate the immediate effects of emergencies. This involves reconstructing shelters for Palestine refugee families who become homeless when their shelters are destroyed by Israeli military operations or natural disasters.
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. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 74 million. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. 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 2016, the Agency is seeking US$ 403 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt. The Agency requires US$ 355.95 million for programme interventions in Gaza, including US$ 109.7 million for emergency food assistance, US$ 142.3 million for emergency shelter assistance, US$ 60.4 million for emergency cash-for-work assistance, US$ 4.4 million for emergency health/mobile health clinics and US$ 3.1 for education in emergencies. 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 1.8 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.
• Rafah crossing was open on 15 and 16 October. It was closed the remaining days of the reporting week.
• Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. This week it was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff on 11 and 13, and 16 to 18 October. On 14 October it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 15 October. It was also closed on 12 October due to Israeli holidays.
• Kerem Shalom crossing is the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip and is usually open five days a week. It was open on 11 and 13, and 16 to 18 October. It was closed on 14 and 15, and also on 12 October due to Israeli holidays.