16 July 2015
07 July - 14 July 2015/Issue 101
• Last week marked the one year anniversary of the start of the summer 2014 hostilities in Gaza. As a reminder of the human impact, and to advocate for the ongoing needs of Palestine refugees living in the coastal enclave, UNRWA has produced a short documentary titled ‘Gaza. One year on.’ In line with the this theme, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said in a statement on 8 July: “A year after the devastating Gaza conflict that claimed close to 1,500 civilian lives, including 551 children, the root causes of the conflict remain unaddressed. The despair, destitution and denial of dignity resulting from last year’s war and from the blockade are a fact of life for ordinary people in Gaza...” The film can be viewed on the UNRWA website as well as that of the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA) in oPt (occupied Palestinian territory). An Arabic version will also be broadcast on UNRWA TV, the Agency’s satellite television channel.
• In an effort to continue ensuring that Palestine refugee children have access to education, from 8 to 25 June UNRWA held its annual Summer Learning Programme (SLP) for students who had failed in Arabic, Mathematics or both. This provides refugee children with an opportunity to catch up and move to the next grade level. The children participated in classes prepared by UNRWA education specialists every morning from 7.45am to 10.45am and attended the SLP exam for Arabic on 29 June and for Mathematics on 30 June. Of a total 25,579 children who benefited from the SLP, 20,711 or 80.97 per cent passed the exams. The pass rate for female students was higher than that for male students. 88.69 per cent of the 8,766 refugee girls sitting the exams passed, whereas 76.94 per cent of the 16,813 male students passed the tests and will move to the next grade at the commencement of the 2015/2016 school year next month.
• The Agency is continuing the allocation of 449 housing units in the Khan Younis Rehousing Project to selected refugee families. In line with the Agency’s policy of co-signing between husbands and wives, to date, 412 families have signed the undertaking and 324 of them have already moved into their new dwelling unit. 37 families are still expected to sign the undertaking. The project, funded by the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent with US$ 19.7 million, offers 600 housing units in total. The construction of the houses started in 2007, yet works stalled in the following three years due to the Israeli imposed blockade. In 2010, when access to construction material became possible for the UN under an agreed mechanism with Israel, 151 housing units were built and have provided shelter for refugee families ever since. In 2014, UNRWA started the construction of the remaining 449 units which have been completed in spring 2015.
• The importance of sport as a high-impact tool in humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts, is recognized by the UN system and its partners. In line with this, since the beginning of February 2015, five UNRWA sports teachers are voluntarily providing football training two to four times per week for 10 UNRWA refugee students in preparation for the Norway Cup, an international youth football tournament in Norway. Between 26 July and 1 August, over 1,500 school sports teams (each with only seven players) from all over the world will participate in the competition; on average 450 matches will take place every day on over 60 different fields. The ten members of the UNRWA Gaza team have been selected as the most talented players from UNRWA schools across the enclave. The initiative is generously supported by local Palestinian businesses and UNRWA. In addition, a pitch (oval) to train and exercise located in Deir El Balah, in central Gaza, has been provided at no cost. The tournament in Norway takes place annually; the Gaza team has been a steady participant since 2010 with the exception of 2014 due to the devastating summer conflict. UNRWA wishes the Gaza team good luck!
• Shelter update:
• Due to lack of funding, to date 51,039 families still have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 7,698 have not received the second tranche to continue repair works. UNRWA has processed these cases and they have received approval through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; as soon as funding is secured, the Agency can distribute the urgently needed financial support. In addition, 20 families have not received their rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014 and 1,297 families have not received their US$ 500 reintegration grant to replace lost household goods.
• As of 13 July, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 139,817 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during last summer’s conflict, 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. In addition, 5,000 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 122,000 minor, damages.
• In June 2015, 18 infrastructure projects worth US$ 40 million were under implementation in Gaza. These are projects for which contractors have started construction work and for which UNRWA is importing the necessary construction material. The Agency also signed 11 contracts related to construction projects worth US$ 12.5 million. Furthermore, UNRWA received Coordination of the Government Activities in the Territories (GOGAT) approval for six infrastructure projects. However, all of these approvals are incomplete as materials such as epoxy paint, galvanized sheet, steel profiles, wires, steel angles, wood and welding bars have been excluded. The June 2015 construction update attached to this weekly situation report will provide more detailed information on the Agency’s construction activities during the month of June.
Operational environment: With the planned but uncertain reshuffle of the Government of National Consensus, the tense situation in Egypt’s Sinai near the southern Gaza border and the seemingly dim prospects for a lifting of the blockade, the political and socio-economic situation in the Strip remains unstable. “In an increasingly unstable Middle-East, neglecting the needs and rights of the people of Gaza is a risk the world should not be taking,” commented UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl in a statement on 8 July. A short film by Channel 4 released this week and widely circulated broaches the issue of potential rising radicalisation in Gaza as a consequence of the 2014 conflict, the lack of economic prospect for youth as well as the general ostracism of Gaza by the international community.
Israel is said to launch its first investigation into a senior officer of the Israeli Defence Forces over the 2014 conflict, according to news reports; the officer faces allegations that he ordered the shelling of a health clinic in Shujjaiya, eastern Gaza city, out of retribution for the death of one of his soldiers. The Israeli Military Advocate General also announced the opening of two other criminal investigations over the Gaza conflict, as media report.
During the reporting week several cases of intercommunal violence were reported. On 7 July, a family dispute took place in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. One person was reportedly stabbed to death. On 8 July, a dispute between two families also in Khan Younis allegedly led to an exchange of fire with two fatalities and one seriously injured. On 11 July, a 20-year old Palestinian allegedly attempted to hang himself at Al Bureij camp, reportedly due to an internal family dispute. On 12 July, a 33-year old male Palestinian allegedly committed suicide after setting himself on fire in the Gaza area.
On 7 July a fire broke out in a house in Jabalia, northern Gaza; as a result two children died.
Protests and rallies were held during the reporting week to mark the first anniversary of the 2014 conflict or to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The Musa family moved into their new home in the Khan Younis Re-housing Project a few weeks ago, after years of living in unhealthy and cramped housing conditions. As soon as they were informed by UNRWA about their new housing option, Nabil Mousa as well as Fatheia and Khadra – his two wives – visited the nearest UNRWA Relief and Social Services office to co-sign the undertaking and benefit from the new shelter.
“I immediately accepted the UNRWA policy of co-signing between husbands and wives; I have no problem with that,” recounted Nabil Abu Musa, a Palestine refugee, sitting on the floor of their new light and welcoming four bedroom house with rose-painted walls and black and white floor tiles. “This is an internal family business and I want to make my family happy. And who is my family? My wives and my eight children. We should all enjoy the chance of having a new home together,” he added.
“I felt very proud when they asked for my signature; I felt my right is preserved, and I was of course surprised as well,” commented Fatheia satisfied. “It is good that a woman can feel that she has a right to the house she is living in,” added Khadra.
UNRWA is currently allocating 449 housing units in the Khan Younis Rehousing Project to selected refugee families. As of 14 July, 412 families have signed the undertaking and 324 of them have already moved into their new dwelling unit upon destruction of their old shelter. Thirty-seven families are still expected to sign the undertaking.
The Musa family is very pleased with their new home, which also includes a small, sunny yard. Their previous house was located three metres below street level; in the winter water and sewage from the street entered the one-room dwelling; there were mice and rats, and the walls were torn down. It had no ventilation and “we just never saw the sun,” explained Nabil sadly. UNRWA became aware of the poor conditions the family was living in after Nabil reached out and sought assistance. The Agency then provided the family with rental subsidy payments and for eight years they were moving from one rented house to the other until finally, just with the start of Ramadan, they received the shelter in Khan Younis.
“I feel like a newborn since we have received this house; I want to erase all the memories of the previous years, the grave we had to live in. I feel like I am in heaven now,” Nabil commented with a big smile on his face.
“The life of our children changed as well. Now, they don’t have to feel shy anymore to invite their friends. They can play in the yard, and they can see the sun,” added Fatheia.
Almost half of the caseload of eligible families for the Rehousing Project are Social Safety Net (SSN) Programme cases like Nabil’s family, living in constricted shelters - more than 3 persons living in less than 50m2 - and identified across the Gaza Strip according to UNRWA scoring system that considers social, financial, cultural and technical criteria. As of 14 July, 197 SSN families have signed the undertaking and 128 of them have already moved into the new shelters. The Khan Younis Rehousing Project is funded by US$ 19.7 million contribution from the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent and covers 600 housing units in total.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the security fence or towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
US$ 216 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$ 504 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 7 to 14 July
• The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 7 to 9 July and from 12 to 13 July. On 10 July, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 11 July.
• Kerem Shalom was open from 7 to 9 July and 12 and 13 July. It was closed on 10 and 11 July.