10 May 2015
28 April - 5 May | Issue No. 9
“No human being who visits can remain untouched by the terrible devastation that one sees here in Gaza and as shocking as the devastation of the buildings might be the devastation of peoples’ livelihoods is 10 times more shocking,” said the new United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, following his first visit to Gaza, on 29 April. He was received by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Robert Turner, who travelled with him to Shujjaiya, a profoundly damaged neighbourhood in Gaza. Whilst there, Mr. Mladenov was able to see the damage more closely and talked to some of the residents who are currently repairing their homes. Mr. Mladenov also visited an UNRWA school in Gaza city where he attended a human rights class and was briefed by UNRWA’s Education Department on education activities and objectives in the enclave. After the visit Mr. Mladenov expressed the United Nation’s ongoing support for reconstruction efforts in the war-ravaged enclave and spoke out against the year-long blockade.
The gravity of unemployment in Gaza, coupled with the number of well qualified job seekers, was once again brought to the fore during the reporting week. A recruitment exercise was initiated in line with increasing student numbers to ensure quality education for refugee children in the Strip. UNRWA received more than 27,000 applicants for an advertised recruitment of approximately 200 teachers for the coming school year, 2015-2016 which anticipates some 8,000 new school aged children. Over 22,205 applicants meet the criteria and have been invited to the written test which was and will be held on 1 and 8 May, respectively. Over 17,500 of the invitees are female. An additional 27 teachers will be recruited to fill posts that become vacant due to retirement or promotion. During the coming school year the Agency also plans to establish a roster and create around 1,000 short-term opportunities for teachers to fill posts of other teachers who are on leave. The UNRWA recruitment team has finalized more than 27,000 teacher applications, which are distributed in eleven specializations such as Mathematics, Educational Technology or Social Studies. Recruitment is also underway for UNRWA’s Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs), taking place from 25 July to 13 August 2015. SFWs will not only provide refugee children with a safe and fun place to play, but also create approximately 2,000 short-term employment opportunities through UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme. The application process for these positions will close on 7 May. To date, the Agency has already received more than 34,000 applications. By comparison, in 2013 25,000 persons applied for SFWs jobs.
The high number of qualified applicants in both the education and the SFW recruitment cases, for a small number of job opportunities, reflects the ongoing unemployment crisis prevailing in Gaza. A large number of the society is highly educated but is limited to finding employment opportunities in the Strip, due to the eight-year long Israeli blockade, which severely restricts the movement of people and goods. The blockade has crushed the Strip’s once dynamic and trade-oriented economy and its capacity to create jobs and pushed the majority of the population into aid-dependency. The unprecedented levels of devastation during last summer’s conflict have had an additional negative effect on the Gaza economy. Today, approximately 65 per cent of the refugee population depends on food aid. In 2014, the average unemployment rate for registered Palestine refugees was 44.1 per cent and for the general population it stood at 43.9 per cent. This is the highest rate ever recorded in Gaza and one of the highest worldwide. The Gaza economy was already in recession before the last conflict, but according to International Monetary Fund statistics, in the third quarter of 2014 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank dramatically by 24.4 per cent. Overall, according to the International Monetary Fund, the Gaza GDP shrank by 15 per cent in 2014, making it one of the most unstable economies in the world. There is no indication that this will improve in the near future.
The interest of foreign delegations in Gaza remains high. During the reporting week UNRWA received a delegation of the German Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (KAS) led by their chairman and former President of the European Parliament, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering. The aim of the visit was to learn about UNRWA programmes and the general social, economic and political situation in the Gaza Strip after last summer’s conflict. The delegation was briefed by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Robert Turner, and also visited the heavily destroyed Shujjaiya neighbourhood in the east of Gaza city. They also spent time in an UNRWA Collective Centre where they met with internally displaced families and UNRWA staff, and heard about their experiences and challenges. During the reporting week, UNRWA in Gaza also received a delegation from the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who were able to view first-hand some of the devastation in Gaza. The delegation members were interested to learn more about the main factors preventing stability and development in the Strip.
A delegation of The Elders, consisting of former US president Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who had planned to enter Gaza last week, made a three-day visit to the West Bank at the conclusion of which they met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on 2 May. According to The Guardian, Mr. Carter stated that the “situation in Gaza is intolerable. Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.” At a press conference concluding the Elder’s visit, Mrs. Brundtland reiterated the call for a lifting of the blockade and stated that the “situation in Gaza is unsustainable and intolerable. A complete paradigm shift is essential. This shift demands the lifting of the siege. It also requires an end to Israel’s policy of separating the West Bank and Gaza.”
Almost 1,000 refugee students from 35 UNRWA elementary schools participated in the UNRWA Annual Sports Festival held at the Maghazi Preparatory Boys School in the Gaza Middle Area on 29 April. The Annual Sports Festival is part of the Agency’s effort to mitigate the psychosocial effects of armed conflict on the Palestine refugee student population through sports and arts and is generously funded by the Emirates-based Dubai Cares charity organization under their ‘Supporting access to education and mitigating psychosocial effects of armed conflict on the Palestine refugee student population’ project, worth US$ 3 million. The project started in January 2015 and includes the recruitment of 364 sports and arts teachers who work in UNRWA schools aiming at the development of positive coping mechanisms and the provision of psychosocial support. The project also emphasizes the importance if children being able to play in a safe and secure environment. The Annual Sports Festival was attended by UNRWA education staff, School Principals, notables from the community and of course the participating sports teams who displayed their talent and skills in various activities like basketball and gymnastics.
During the reporting week, UNRWA closed the Rimal Preparatory Girls School Collective Centre (CC) in Gaza City. The remaining families residing in the CC have moved to the Zaitoun Elementary Boys School CC or to alternative shelter upon receipt of rental subsidy payments through UNRWA. The Agency still provides shelter to approximately 4,900 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 8 CCs across the Gaza Strip.
Update on the UNRWA shelter programme:
As of 4 May 2015, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 137,729 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the summer hostilities. To date, 9,161 Palestine refugee houses have been considered totally demolished and 4,939 have suffered severe, 3,769 major and 119,860 sustained minor damages. Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, UNRWA has distributed a total of US$ 96.86 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families. US$ 175 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$ 545 million.
Construction materials defined by Israel as “dual-use” (deemed as potentially having a military purpose) are only permitted to enter for approved projects by international organizations and, since mid-October 2014, under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), an agreement between the governments of Israel and Palestine, for private sector use. The GRM, to which UNRWA is not a party, allows for private sector imports, and hence for shelter self-help for large scale reconstruction which was not possible prior to the establishment of the GRM due to the Israeli blockade on Gaza. As outlined in the UNSCO factsheet, the GRM is composed of three streams: 1. Repair of damaged homes/properties (led by the Government of Palestine); 2. Large scale public and private sector works (led by the Government of Palestine); and 3. United Nations led works (led by the UN).
For the self-help shelter repair programme, UNRWA relies on the first stream of the GRM (repair of damaged homes/properties or “Shelter Repair Stream”). This stream allows for self-help shelter repair of homes with minor, major and severe damages only. This stream is functioning well but UNRWA currently has insufficient funding to continue the programme. After the announced suspension of the shelter programme in January 2015, UNRWA continues to support families whenever funding becomes available, mainly through efficiency-driven savings, reprogramming or receipt of pre-announced pledges. To date, over 60,000 Palestine refugee families – almost half of the caseload – have been able to complete the repair of their damaged homes with assistance provided through UNRWA. During the reporting week, UNRWA was able to pay a total of US$ 9,800 in cash assistance for 11 families to receive the first rental subsidy instalment (TSCA, transitional shelter cash assistance) usually covering a period of four months.
As for shelter self-help reconstruction, more than eight months after the announcement of a ceasefire, not a single totally destroyed home has been rebuilt in Gaza. To date, the Agency has only received funding to rebuild 200 of the 9,161 Palestine refugee homes which are assessed as totally destroyed. Shelter reconstruction under the GRM was initially envisaged to fall under the second GRM stream (large scale public and private sector works), meaning that every single house of the over 9,161 totally destroyed refugee homes would be treated as a separate reconstruction project requiring distinct approvals. Negotiations of a fourth stream, a simplified “Residential Stream”, to allow for the construction of totally destroyed houses, is still ongoing (including, for example, a standardized unit formula to allow for swift approval). As soon as an agreement is reached, UNRWA will submit the first 200 cases for reconstruction works funded by Germany for approval. The families have been identified and building permits and approved designs are being prepared.
UNRWA also provides rental subsidies to families with uninhabitable homes and over 11,500 refugee families have received the first instalment for the period from September to December 2014. Yet due to the Agency’s lack of funding, 274 families still have not received the rental subsidy for the period from September to December 2014; 9,000 refugee families are waiting for the first quarter of 2015 payment; 4,609 families have not received their US$ 500 reintegration grant to help replace lost household goods and 37,333 families have not yet received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 4,791 families are waiting for the second tranche to continue repair works of their shelter. UNRWA has processed all these cases and they have received approval through the GRM; as soon as funding is secured the Agency will be able to distribute the urgently needed cash assistance.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has appointed Australian Mr. Robert Piper as Deputy Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Mr. Piper will succeed James Rawley from the United States to whom the Secretary-General stated he is grateful in particular for his dedicated contribution to Gaza’s reconstruction efforts. Mr. Piper will also serve as United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He brings 25 years of experience in humanitarian aid and development with the United Nations.
‘Empowerment’ is the main theme of the Palestine Human Development Report (HDR) in 2004 published by the United Nations Development Programme, and has now, ten years later, been chosen again in order to portray the path to Palestinian empowerment since that time. The report, released on 4 May, takes into account the continued pertinence of this topic in the Palestinian context and highlights the development challenges the Palestinian Government faces in fields such as education, health or economy due to the Israeli blockade which represents, according to the report, a “dominant force for disempowerment”.
Operational environment: The difficult political conditions and the lack of economic opportunities render life tough in Gaza. Authorities in Gaza have allegedly approved a new ‘national solidarity tax law’ which imposes taxes on imported goods, services and public shareholding companies. The additional collected tax money reportedly aims at alleviating the salary crisis of employees appointed by the former de-facto government who have not received full salaries since October 2013. Media reports indicate that the proposed new law faces widespread opposition from citizens whose living standard has already heavily declined together with the social and economic conditions in the Strip. According to regional media, indirect talks on a long-term ceasefire in the Gaza Strip are ongoing for several months. Reportedly, in exchange for a commitment by Hamas to a humanitarian ceasefire for a given period of time, Israel would significantly ease its blockade on Gaza, one article states.
The physical environment in Gaza remains hazardous with reports of more detonations of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) during the week. On 1 May, an IED detonated under a car belonging to an alleged Fatah activist. The car was damaged but no injuries were reported. On 4 May two IEDs were reportedly detonated - one in Jabalia, northern Gaza, which damaged houses and shops, and one in a playground in Gaza city, which resulted in one injury. On the same day, it was reported that local police managed to defuse two IEDs placed in a vehicle in Gaza city. On 5 May, an arrest was made regarding these IEDs.
On 3 May, members of the Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, in cooperation with National Security Forces, reportedly demolished a Mosque that belonged to alleged Islamic State supporters in Deir El Balah, in the middle area of the Gaza Strip.
Smaller protests continued during the reporting week on an almost daily basis with protestors demanding more employment opportunities, a lifting of the blockade, free press or the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. During a protest on 29 April, in the heavily damaged Shujjaiya neighbourhood in east Gaza city, where protestors were urging for reconstruction and an end to intra-Palestinian divisions, local security forces have reportedly arrested at least seven youth protestors. Also on 29 April, a number of graduates held a sit-in in front of the UNRWA main gate in Gaza city, protesting against not including their names in the teacher’s test. The graduates’ names were not included because their degrees are from the Al Umma University in Gaza – a university not accredited by the Ministry of Education in Ramallah or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and thus also not recognized by UNRWA. After a meeting with representatives from the UNWRA Human Resources Office and its Education Department, they concluded the sit-in and left the area.
35-year old refugee Iman Juma’a Abu Oun is divorced and lives with her parents in Gaza city. This summer she has been given the chance to work as a clerk in the Al Ma’mounya Preparatory Girls School in Gaza city for the preparation of UNRWA’s Summer Fun Weeks, from 25 July to 13 August.
“This is the first time that I actually found work, although I have tried so many times before. The high number of graduates and the tough economic situation in Gaza made this like an impossible dream to come true,” she said, summarizing the experience of thousands of graduates in the coastal enclave each year.
Iman finished her studies in Office Management at Al Azhar University in Gaza City in 2003. Like many other graduates in the war-ravaged enclave she has since then desperately sought a job. "Life became so difficult; I was hoping to find employment to support myself and not be a burden for my family. I really wouldn’t mind working in any job, anything that helps me to survive. Life in Gaza is really tough,” she added.
Her colleague Rami Mater, a refugee who works as admin officer for the Summer Fun Weeks, agreed on what she was saying and added: “Almost daily people with high academic degrees come to our office to inquire about their Summer Fun Weeks application; they are in dire need of work to support their families.”
The economic blockade on Gaza, now in its eighth year, has crushed the once vibrant economy and the deteriorating socio-economic conditions heavily impact the lives of civilians, who are increasingly dependent on food aid. In 2014, the average unemployment rate for refugees was at 44.1 per cent – one of the highest rates worldwide – and for female refugees it was 57.3 per cent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
In Gaza, high education does not protect from unemployment either. To the contrary, the higher the educational level, the lower the probability to find a job. This pattern is even more accentuated for women: PCBS data show that the unemployment rate for women with over 13 years of education reached 61 per cent in 2014, whereas for the less-educated categories unemployment rate was 20 per cent or below.
“Providing for my family is my absolute priority; it does not matter what the type of work is,” said 38-year old refugee Majed Muqayad, a father of five from northern Gaza who holds a Bachelor degree in Information Technology from the Islamic University in Gaza.
Majed has now the chance to work during one month as data entry clerk for the UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks through the UNRWA Job Creation Programme. “It is only one month, but I would never reject such an opportunity. It is really all we have,” he said.
Summary of Major Incidents
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the fence with Israel or at Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
On 2 May, militants fired one test rockets towards the sea. On 3 May, militants fired one rocket towards Israel. The rocket dropped short and landed in Palestinian areas. On 4 May, Hamas militants fired two test rockets towards the sea.
On 4 May, an Israeli tank and six bulldozers entered approximately 100 metres into Gaza areas. They withdrew on the same day.
US$ 175 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$ 545 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 remained closed from 28 April to 5 May.
The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 28 to 30 April and from 3 to 5 May. On 1 May, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 2 May.
Kerem Shalom was open between 28 April to 30 April and 3 to 5 May It was closed on 1 and 2 May.
Gaza Emergency Donate Message 3
US$ 149 PROVIDES A FAMILY WITH MATTRESSES, BLANKETS & A SLEEPING MAT