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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
5 February 2009




This report was issued by HQ. It covers the period from 31 January to 5 February. The next report will be issued on or around 10 February.



I. HIGHLIGHTS/KEY PRIORITIES

Continued violence led to at least two deaths and nine injuries.
UNRWA reported that aid intended for 500 families was confiscated by police in Gaza on 3 Feb.
The Gaza Flash Appeal for USD 613 million was launched on 2 February including 106 NGO and 82 UN projects.
UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict says children in the region remain in a “precarious state of uncertainty”.

II. Situation Overview

Violent incidents continue to undermine the unilateral ceasefire implemented by Israel on 18 January and later the same day by Hamas and other Palestinian factions.

31 January: A rocket fired from Gaza landed south of Ashkelon, Israel, no injuries were reported.
1 February: A number of rockets and mortar shells were fired into southern Israel, injuring two Israeli soldiers and one civilian. Fire was exchanged in Israel near the Kissufim crossing to Gaza; no casualties were reported. The Israeli Air Force hit a number of tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border as well as a building in Khan Yunis.
2 February: Mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel. An Israeli air strike on a vehicle in Rafah killed one Palestinian and wounded three others.
3 February: A rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Ashkelon, no injuries were reported. The Israeli Air Force bombed a number of tunnels along the Gaza-Egyptian border, injuring two Palestinians.
4 February: A mortar shell was fired from Gaza into Southern Israel, though no injuries were reported.
5 February: One person was injured attempting to fire a shell from Gaza




On 2 February, the Under-Secretary-General (USG) and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) launched a Flash Appeal for USD 613 million for Gaza. The Appeal is a strategic plan incorporating 106 NGO and 82 UN projects to respond to the emergency humanitarian and early recovery needs of some 1.4 million people in Gaza. In an opening statement at the launch, the USG/ERC underscored the purpose of the Appeal: “[w]e are here today not to debate the rights and wrongs but to highlight the needs arising from the recent events in Gaza,” and mobilize the funds necessary to meet those needs.

It was further emphasized that certain conditions must be met to ensure an enabling environment for an effective humanitarian response, including: a consolidation of the fragile unilateral ceasefires; freer access into Gaza for staff and humanitarian goods, including construction materials; and a separation of efforts to meet immediate needs from political considerations.

Access for goods and staff into Gaza continues to be constrained. On 30 January, Save the Children underscored that to “meet the needs of children and their families […] unfettered access to Gaza for both staff and supplies,” is needed. The European Commission and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released a joint statement on 5 February noting that, “[c]urrently, the number of trucks allowed by Israel to enter Gaza [on a daily basis] remains insufficient and only a limited array of items are being permitted to enter through the crossings. This is hampering efforts to restore basic social services in Gaza and repair critical infrastructure.”

UNRWA reported that after refusing to hand over aid supplies to the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs, aid intended for 500 families was confiscated by police personnel in Beach Camp, Gaza on 3 February. Noting that it has a strict system to monitor that aid reaches intended beneficiaries, UNRWA condemned this confiscation and has demanded that the aid be immediately returned. Deploring this action, the USG/ERC stated that, "[t]he United Nations cannot accept under any circumstances the diversion of aid by a party to a conflict.” He added that, "[t]o ensure the access of civilians in Gaza to life-saving assistance and the sustained delivery of aid and essential reconstruction supplies […] all parties [must] respect the neutrality and independence of aid workers, supplies and facilities."

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict conducted a four-day mission to the occupied Palestinian territory and southern Israel to assess the situation of children in the region. She underscored that, “despite the Gaza ceasefires, children continue to suffer and remain in a precarious state of insecurity.”


III. Humanitarian Needs and Response



The ICRC has contacted authorities in Israel and in Gaza to obtain access to prisoners captured during the military operation.

On 30 January, Save the Children reported that, “children in Gaza are suffering from psychological distress,” and that if they are given, “proper care and support, they are able to bounce back.” On 3 February, UNICEF highlighted that the protection of children remains a priority in Gaza. UNICEF reported that children were, “severely affected psychologically by the conflict…” due to the distress they experienced and the, “acute disruption of support mechanisms.” The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflicts further underscored that "[r]ehabilitation services for the disabled and psycho-social support programs for the tens of thousands in distress are critical.”

Access
On 2 February, the Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) requested the international community to increase their supervision of cargo to prevent the smuggling of goods into Gaza. It was updated that “stringent” procedures for checking cargo have been instituted at crossing points. NGO staff continue to encounter difficulty in accessing Gaza. Many NGOs are awaiting a response from Israeli authorities regarding their application for clearance and others have been denied entry altogether.

The Israeli authorities have assured the humanitarian community that the capacity of Kerem Shalom crossing would be augmented to facilitate 150 trucks to cross into Gaza per day. However, recent daily crossings have not exceeded 120 truckloads. Humanitarian organisations have repeatedly called for the sustained reopening of all crossings, particularly Karni crossing, which has the only facility capable of importing the quantity of grain required to meet the needs in Gaza. On 3 February, the Israeli Government updated that the types of humanitarian aid that can be considered for clearance to cross into Gaza includes food, medicine, medical equipment, materials for essential humanitarian infrastructure and a certain amount of diesel fuel. It was underscored that cement, sand, gravel and steal are not considered to be humanitarian aid materials.




On 5 February it was updated that Rafah crossing to Egypt is closed for Palestinians. The crossing of medical cases will be considered on an ad hoc basis and the crossing of cargo will be permitted only on an exceptional basis.

Health
The Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Unit of the Palestinian MoH reported that the largest proportion of injuries sustained during the recent fighting were caused by shrapnel (44 percent). The ICRC reported that 70 amputations were carried out at Shifa hospital during the fighting. However, there is a lack of capacity to provide the specialised and rehabilitation services needed for the current caseload in Gaza.

Of 122 health facilities assessed, WHO concluded that approximately 48 percent had suffered damage or had been destroyed during the fighting, including: 15 hospitals and 41 primary health care (PHC) centres partially damaged; two PHC centres destroyed; and 29 ambulances partially damaged or destroyed. Despite the damage sustained, WHO reported that 53 out of 55 Palestinian MoH PHC centres are fully functioning and all UNRWA centres have resumed normal functioning. With the resumption of immunization services at PHC centres, there is currently a higher attendance rate for immunizations than before the recent fighting began.

According to the Palestinian MoH/WHO operations room in Ramallah, 96 percent of the priority drugs and 81 percent of medical disposables at the central levels have been either delivered or committed. It was emphasized that all in-kind donations should be coordinated with WHO and the Palestinian MoH.

Food
Access to food remains challenging in Gaza, due to the limited availability of food items as well as a lack of cash in Gaza. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported on 5 February that it has widened its emergency relief programme in Gaza by distributing ready-to-eat meals to feed sick and injured patients in hospitals. WFP aims to distribute more than 40,000 ready-to-eat meals in the coming days. This assistance complement’s WFP's normal distributions of standard rations such as wheat flour, cooking oil and chickpeas to 365,000 people affected by conflict and food shortages.

Shelter
As of 5 February, 388 displaced people continued to seek refuge in three UNRWA shelters in Jabalia, Beach Camp and Deir Al Balah. Thousands of other displaced people remain with host families. Municipalities in northern Gaza have also established five tented camps, with the capacity to accommodate approximately 100 families in need of shelter. Priority needs for displaced households include shelter material, non-food items (NFIs) and construction materials to repair their homes.

As of 3 February, the ICRC and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) have assisted more than 60,000 people with the provision of NFIs, including plastic sheeting to cover windows and damaged walls.

UNDP estimated that over 14,000 homes, 68 Government buildings and 31 NGO structures were partially or totally damaged. The ICRC is currently registering households whose houses were partly or totally destroyed. To repair damages, UNDP estimated that 600,000 tonnes of concrete rubble needs to be removed. It was noted that the rubble poses serious dangers as it, “is mixed with poisonous harmful materials and may include unexploded ordnances.”

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
Preliminary findings from the Palestinian Hydrology Group’s rapid needs assessment show that the Al Atatra and Izbet Abed Rabbo neighbourhoods sustained the most damage to their water networks: 50 percent of their system has been damaged.




Some 300,000 people remain without tap water, according to the Coastal Municipalities Water Unit (CMWU). To support the utility’s maintenance of the water and wastewater networks, the ICRC requested approval from the Israeli authorities for the entry of 36 trucks with necessary supplies; only 13 trucks were allowed into Gaza and a request to import PVC pipes was refused.

In addition to damaged water networks, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) reported that rooftop water tanks have been destroyed by bullets and shrapnel. The organization will install new tanks for 500 households. To reduce health hazards resulting from the extensive damage to the water distribution system, the IRC is also planning to launch a personal hygiene and public health campaign inside Gaza. IRC reported that they have not yet been able to enter Gaza, due to restrictions on crossings.

Due to damage sustained, the Gaza City Wastewater Treatment Plant continues to discharge 60 million litres of raw sewage into the sea every day. The NGO, Action Contre la Faim (ACF) is working with the CMWU to fix the damaged lagoons and pipes.

Electricity/Fuel
With an increase in the delivery of fuel to the Gaza Power Plant, rolling power cuts have been reduced to eight hours, three times a week, in most areas. GEDCO (the power utility) estimates that the utility suffered over USD 10 million in losses during the recent fighting.

GEDCO is in urgent need of electrical materials and concrete to repair damage to the network; however, the import of these materials into Gaza has been restricted. The lack of required supplies is likely to constrain the delivery of electricity and reduce the effectiveness of the electrical network over the longer term.

Early Recovery
To complement the inter-agency teams conducting assessments of humanitarian needs in Gaza, UNDP informed on 4 February that joint teams have assessed damages and recovery needs of critical sectors, including: health, education, agriculture, infrastructure and environment. UNDP updated that the assessment findings will inform the Gaza Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan that will be presented by the Palestinian Authority at the Gaza donors' conference planned for 2 March in Cairo, Egypt.

UNDP underscored that an immediate, multi-dimensional early recovery response is needed in Gaza, focused on the restoration of access and movement, the reconstruction of basic services and infrastructures, as well as the reduction of additional risks and vulnerabilities. Investment in livelihoods, shelter, governance systems, security and rule of law and environmental sustainability is also urgently required.

Cross-Cluster/Sector Issues
The sustained reopening of all crossings into Gaza is necessary to ensure access. The quantity of goods allowed into Gaza must be expanded greatly, and must include construction materials (including cement and sand) and spare parts, which are necessary for rebuilding critical infrastructure and homes. To deliver lifesaving services, humanitarian workers require unimpeded access into Gaza, including NGO staff.

Cash has still not entered Gaza (except for the payment of staff in some international organizations). A system must be urgently established to ensure the regular and predictable monthly transfer of the necessary cash to ensure people can access basic supplies, for the payment of salaries, to reactivate the private sector and prevent an increased dependence on aid.


    IV. Funding

As of 5 February, over USD 90 million had been pledged or contributed to support the Flash Appeal for Gaza. This represents approximately 15 percent of the USD 613 million Appeal. Over USD 177 million has also been committed (in funding and in kind) to projects outside of the Appeal.

For a funding update of see:
http://ocha.unog.ch/fts/pageloader.aspx?page=emerg-emergencyDetails&appealID=834.

This information was compiled by OCHA, based on the information provided by donors and appealing organisations.

All humanitarian partners including donors and recipient agencies are encouraged to inform FTS of cash and in-kind contributions to: fts@reliefweb.int.



    V. Contact





This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet website at http://reliefweb.int.

A copy of the Field Update from the Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPt can be found at: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_gaza_humanitarian_situation_report_2009_01_08_english.pdf

Clarification: The Situation Report of 7 January referred to the “the shelling of the UNRWA school in Jabalia on 6 January.” As correctly reported on 6 January, and by the Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the Israeli shells landed outside an UNRWA school in Jabalia, resulting in an initial estimate of 30 fatalities. According to URNWA, the number of fatalities from this incident is over 40, many of whom were among the 1,368 people who had taken refuge in the school.

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