04 June 2017
• The UNRWA Advisory Commission, the Agency’s advisory body composed of its largest donors and host governments, met in Amman on 22 and 23 May to review strategic developments in the situation of Palestine refugees and the work of UNRWA. UNRWA Field Directors and headquarters departments such as the Departments of Finance and External Relations and Communications provided updates on key activities and participants gave feedback from the floor. To commemorate 50 years of occupation of the Palestinian territory (oPt) as well as ten years of blockade on Gaza, the Advisory Commission held a special session on the oPt. During the session, Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, stressed that occupation and blockade continue to perpetuate dependency of Palestine refugees on UNRWA services, despite the strength of people in Gaza. In his statement, Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, the UNRWA Commissioner-General, recalled his last visit to Gaza in early 2017 noting “the ongoing deterioration of conditions across the Strip in terms of water and electricity scarcity, lack of employment and freedom of movement but [also] the epidemic deterioration in psychosocial conditions.” Reflecting on the last 50 years of operations, Mr. Schack, paid tribute to the importance of UNRWA services in areas as diverse as education, health, and microfinance and camp improvement. Watch video showed at the AdCom meeting
• During the reporting week, the energy crisis in Gaza deepened further. A sustained lack of electricity with rolling power outages of up to 22 hours coincided with an increase in temperatures as well as the beginning of the month of Ramadan. In his regular briefing to the Security Council, Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator of the UN Secretary-General for the Middle East Peace Process, noted the consequences: Hospitals are now forced to postpone elective surgeries and have already reduced 80 per cent of cleaning, catering and sterilization services. Some medical facilities were only able to continue operation with the help of an emergency fuel supply facilitated by the United Nations last month but reserves will run out in the coming weeks. Currently 100,000 cubic metres of untreated sewage are discharged daily into the sea off the Gazan coast spelling environmental disaster. In addition, recently announced salary cuts for employees of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, if sustained for the coming months, will put a serious additional strain on those affected and their families as well as the overall socioeconomic situation.
• Preparations for this year’s Summer Fun Weeks (SFW) are in full swing. The SFW will take place between 8 July 2017 and 27 July 2017 in over 124 different locations across the Gaza Strip, including venues that facilitate the participation of children with special needs. Currently around 185,000 students have already registered. The SFWs include sports activities such as football and basketball as well as inflatable toys like trampolines, slides and castles. Other activities such as Rethink and Recycle which aims to ensure student awareness for the protection of the environment and handicrafts and drawing will also be offered. This year, different activities will be introduced such as gender awareness, English language, technology awareness, student camps, student ambassador, and student choir. Under the theme of ‘Sea Messages’ participants in the Gaza area will send their messages for love and peace from Gaza to the children of the world. The UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks (SFW) are among the Agency’s contributions to support refugee children’s psychosocial needs by providing them with a safe and fun place to play and the possibility to develop new friendships. In addition, the SFW will also create around 2,340 short-term employment opportunities through UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme.
• United Nations Industrial Development Organizations (UNIDO)and LibanPack organized the first edition of Arab Student StarPack competition 2017. The competition addressed to university students in the Arab Countries which is part of its mission in ensuring an inclusive and sustainable development through industrial development by involving the youth and providing them with an invaluable opportunity to unleash their creativity and upgrade the packaging of their national products. Over 1,000 Arab students from 15 Arab countries participated, winners selected per country who will then compete for the Pan Arab Award. Two students from Gaza Training Centre (GTC), Graphic Design division, Ahmed Al-Zoum- won the first prize on project under the name “Abu Hamid Nuts”, and Saher Abduihameed –won the second prize in project under the name “Abu Hamid Olive Oil”. In addition to the experience, visibility, prizes gained, winners will be automatically qualified to participate in WorldStar competition organized by the World Packaging Organization (WPO), granting winning projects international visibility as well. See announcement of the Arab Student StarPack competition 2017 winners.
• On 25 May, UNRWA organized a town hall meeting in Deir El Balah involving community representatives and civil society organisations to discuss the launch of the first phase of the Deir El Balah camp improvement project. The Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. David De Dold accompanied by senior UNRWA staff presented the project components and implementation process. This is in line with UNRWA’s commitment to ensuring the participation of affected communities in the planning and design of initiatives directly affecting them. The Deir El Balah camp improvement project aims to improving all physical aspects of the camp according to the residents’ wishes. The camp consists of 13 residential neighborhoods and an area of institutions, four community institutions will be reconstructed, including the community/youth centre, a women’s programme centre, a Relief and Social Services Programme office and the local health centre.
• The Operations Support Office (OSO) assists Gaza Field Office (GFO) in the implementation of the activities, and the effective provision of services, also by facilitating information sharing and beneficiary feedback. OSO supports a consistent and principled implementation of the operations by promoting and monitoring adherence to humanitarian principles and in particular neutrality issues. This includes regular visits to the installations, continued engagement with UNRWA staff on this issue, and participation in the induction training of newly hired staff. Since January 2017, the OSO team has delivered 13 training sessions on neutrality and humanitarian principles to nearly 400 staff. OSO also performs an overall coordination and technical support role with regard to the operationalization of the Agency’s protection strategy, including the mainstreaming of protection principles and good practices. It does so also in close cooperation with the Area Protection Committees, which comprise frontline staff from UNRWA programmes and were established in each governorate of the Gaza Strip. As part of its mainstreaming efforts, OSO promotes knowledge and understanding of protection across GFO and facilitates the roll-out of the internal protection standard operating procedures and referral pathways. Since March 2017 OSO has delivered presentations and training sessions on protection to 280 staff, including programme and support staff.
• Several protests were held across the Gaza Strip against the blockade and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike inside Israeli prisons.
On 26, 28 and 29 May, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of Gaza city, forcing them ashore. One injury was reported.
Gaza Ministry of Interior executed the death sentences of three Palestinian men, convicted of their involvement in the killing of a commander of Al-Qassam Brigade of Hamas, on 24 Mar 2017.
National and Islamic Factions organized the weekly sit-in in front of ICRC office, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails. Also, the factions held a sit-in and press conference, to celebrate the suspension of Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike.
The Palestinian Medical Relief Society organized a marathon, west of Gaza city, to encourage smoking cessation
Reflecting global trends, the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes and hypertension is on the rise in Gaza. In the coastal enclave which has been under a tight land, air and sea blockade for ten years, high diabetes rates are a direct result of the disruption to economic and social activity which allows malnutrition and infectious diseases to co-exist with non-communicable health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Forced urbanization, over-crowding and related psycho-social stress can aggravate these diseases. UNRWA currently provides services to over 80,000 NCD patients, including over 2,400 newly registered in the first quarter of 2017.
Kamlah Nassar visits the UNRWA Beach Camp Health Centre every three months to ensure good monitoring of her health condition. During her regular visits she receives different services such as blood, diabetes and hypertension tests, in addition to participating in awareness-raising sessions organized by staff at the Beach Camp Health Centre. “I’ve chosen to follow up at the UNRWA Health Centre for many reasons: I trust the place and feel comfortable there. My medicine is always available and primary care is free of charge which is a great help for a poor person like me,” Kamlah commented.
NCD patients require routine health check-ups and consistent access to medicines. Interruptions to either or both elements of treatment for extended periods of time are likely to trigger secondary complications, such as blindness and infections, in the case of diabetes. Early detection and prevention are therefore critical to protect diabetes patients from the secondary effects of the disease.
“In addition to our regular work in the health centre, we conduct regular community outreach activities. We visit schools, community-based organizations, Women’s Programme Centres and conduct awareness session on early detection of non-communicable diseases and healthy lifestyle as prevention requires awareness” said Waleed Omar, who works as a nurse in Beach Camp Health Centre.
Through its 22 Health Centres, UNRWA provides primary health care services to the vast majority of the 1.3 million Palestine refugees in Gaza. Health Centres also provide clinic and laboratory services, along with personalized maternal health and family planning.
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.