4 November - 11 November Issue 69
Operational environment: The general atmosphere in Gaza remains tense. An increase in minor security incidents and local demonstrations is affecting the ability of the National Consensus Government to effectively assume power and govern the Gaza Strip. An unclear timeframe around reconstruction and the workings of the Government-led Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism are proving frustrating for affected families. UNRWA’s operational focus over the past week remained on Collective Centre management, health and school activities, shelter assessments, assistance to those with damaged or uninhabitable homes and regular ongoing support to Palestine refugees in Gaza.
LIFE IN GAZA: A PALESTINE REFUGEE FAMILY HOLDS ON TO HOPE AGAINST THE ODDS
Twenty-six year old Felesteen Isdudi seems wise beyond her years. Having endured the worst of the recent conflict in Gaza and forced to evacuate the home she shared with her 30 year old husband, Bassan and their seven children, Felesteen is a survivor.
Her four sons and three daughters, aged 2 months to 9 years old, relocated with Felesteen and Bassan from Shejayeh neighbourhood in early July, when their home was severely damaged in the hostilities.
The family’s displacement journey started at their relatives’ home for three days, then at a non-UNRWA school shelter. Later, they moved together to UNRWA’s Collective Centre at Zaitoun Elementary Boys School “B”. This remains their current residence, with 2,866 other internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“When we arrived at the Collective Centre, we had nothing except for the clothes we were wearing,” said Felesteen. “We received mattresses and blankets, some clothing and other basic supplies.”
This is not the first time Felesteen’s family has benefited from humanitarian assistance. “We were given similar items after the storm hit the Strip last year, but that is all gone now… with our destroyed home,” she said.
The family does not have a steady income. Bassan is a hard worker and currently holds a temporary contract as a cleaner for a private company in Gaza. His monthly salary is less than USD 150 and his current contract expires in December. Bassan benefited from UNRWA’s Job Creation Program for three months a couple of years ago and is always looking for a more permanent source of financial security for the family.
Bassan is not alone. According to UNRWA’s PCBS data, the unemployment rate in Gaza surged to a record high 44.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2014. The refugee unemployment rate reached 45.5 per cent, the highest level ever reported in UNRWA’s PCBS-based records since 2000. The total number of unemployed exceeded 200,000 in mid-2014 and doubled compared mid-2013. It is predicted to be even higher since the conflict.
The family remains reliant on UNRWA’s services to meet their basic needs. This includes utilizing UNRWA health centres, education and Relief and Social Services. The family also depends on UNRWA’s emergency food assistance to registered Palestine refugees. Due to the current socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip, and as a result of the seven-year Israeli-imposed blockade, UNRWA currently provides food assistance to 867,000 beneficiaries. This has increased from 80,000 recipients in 2000.
Whilst Felesteen and Bassan are grateful for adequate shelter, life in the Collective Centre hasn’t been easy for the family, particularly the children. “Each day, the children have to walk for over 80 minutes on the way to and from school, as we are unable to pay for transportation for them,” explains Bassan. “It is a very hard task for the children to walk daily for that long to get their education, and in winter this becomes harder – for them and also for me as I am unable to help them,” he added.
The family’s youngest daughter was born whilst the family were displaced. She is named Suzan - after the name of Collective Centre Manager. “I wanted to show gratitude to the Collective Centre manager for her kindness and endless support,” explained Felesteen.
Immediately after the birth, Felesteen received maternity packages from UNRWA that included diapers, some clothing, hygiene supplies and a cot. The UNRWA medical team in the Collective Centre also provided follow up care for Felesteen and baby Suzan.
“Life in a Collective Centre is very hard due to being crowded, and the lack of privacy,” said Felesteen. “Another challenge facing us now as winter is approaching, is the weather, so when the children go to sleep I put them all beside each other to feel some warmth,” she said.
Damage to the family’s shelter is currently being assessed by UNRWA engineers. The family is expecting to be entitled to temporary shelter cash allowance (TSCA), where they will have the resources to rent an apartment until their home is rebuilt. The issue for this family of nine will be finding a place to rent, as there aren’t many vacant apartments in Gaza.
Felesteen is trying to remain optimistic and she won’t let hope go away, if not for herself but for her children. “The only dream I have now is to see my home rebuilt and to move to a normal life again, with a permanent job for my husband,” she said.
Overnight on 3/4 November, it was reported that the IDF positioned at Kerem Shalom crossing and opened fire towards Gaza. Overnight on 6/7 November, eight IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) were reportedly found in front of political leaders’ houses in Gaza City and the northern area of the Strip. No injuries were reported. On November 10, it was reported that IDP tanks and two bulldozers penetrated approximately 200 metres for the border at Deir Al Balah. The troops reportedly withdrew later in the day. Overnight on 10/11 November, an explosion was reported at Kerem Shalom where it is understood that fuel pipelines exploded resulting in one death and three injuries. Several demonstrations in public squares and outside UN and NGO installations were reported during the week.
The Agency has concluded assessments of its damaged UNRWA installations, with a total of 118. Repair work is ongoing.
UNRWA is seeking USD 1.6 billion for emergency relief, early recovery and reconstruction priorities in the Gaza Strip. More information can be found here. The same information is available in Arabic here.