05 November 2015
• Furthering the already strong relationship between Palestine and Japan, the Government of Japan invited three UNRWA preparatory students from Gaza to visit Japan from 29 October to 8 November. Their programme included a visit to the Kamaishi kite flying site and activities with Japanese students and senior officials. Kamaishi is in northern Japan and had been heavily affected by the Tsunami in 2011, the reason why the Japanese government launched its kite flying project in Gaza in 2012, in a message of continued solidarity and empathy, and as a response to a shared feeling of devastation and loss between Japanese and Palestinian refugee children. The UNRWA students also met with Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl who was in Japan for an official visit at the same time, and with UNRWA’s Director of Health, Dr Akihiro Seito, a Japanese national. On 3 November the Commissioner-General and the students participated in a kites flying event in Kamaishi together with other Japanese children and later in the afternoon met with the Prime Minister of Japan. The students are all studying in UNRWA schools inside a Japanese funded housing project in Khan Younis, southern Gaza; they had been selected based on their academic performance, English language skills, family consent and their ability to travel despite the restrictions of movement caused by the blockade on Gaza. The students are accompanied during their trip by an UNRWA School Principal. The trip of the three students is completely funded by the Japanese nonprofit grassroots advocacy organization‘RESULTS, the power to end poverty.’
• The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza participated as a guest at Gaza’s first ever TEDx event on 29 October – TEDxShujaiya. TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community. Events are usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TEDxShujaiya included 11 speakers, and was organized by a group of youth from Gaza who “with different areas of interest and backgrounds” wanted to “generate an impact on their society.” It was sponsored by numerous local businesses and media organizations. The event is testimony to the fact that many young people in Gaza believe in themselves and are able to inspire one another, despite the context in which they live. The event organizers describe it as follows: “The main thing we are looking for through the establishment of this event is showing the world that Palestinians, and especially those from Gaza who suffered severely from wars and neglect, have stories worth telling and ideas worth spreading.”
• Providing care and support for orphan children in UNRWA schools remains a concern for the Agency, and also for the people of Gaza. With support from the Gaza community and through the coordination of the UNRWA Chief Area Office in Rafah, southern Gaza, the Community-Based Organisation ‘Society for the Care of Disabled Families’ was able to collect 1,000 school uniforms for female orphans and female members of the recently elected UNRWA School Parliaments. As a capacity-building measure, the female parliament members were also involved in logistics and the distribution process of the uniforms, to strengthen their organizational skills but also to create a sense of ownership and improve the team spirit of the parliaments.
• On 29 October, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in partnership with Belgium as Co-Chair and technical adviser of the UN Education Sector Working Group, organized a visit for approximately 40 persons to the Gaza Strip. The visit was conducted with the support of the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), UNRWA and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and included also members of the Joint Financing Partners supporting education in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) as well as the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in the oPt, Mr. Robert Piper. The visit was organized as a parallel to the field visit that took place in the West Bank, aiming at including the voices of students, teachers and school principals into the national debate on education. The delegation visited the government-led Ain Al Helwa school in central Gaza as well as the UNRWA Jabalia Elementary Co-ed B school in northern Gaza, where they discussed achievements, challenges and urgent needs with students and teachers alike. In the UNRWA school, student members of the School Parliament particularly expressed their enthusiasm and benefit from the human rights education curricula, provided exclusively in UNRWA schools.
• On 24 October the United Nations celebrated its 70th birthday. For this occasion, 44 photographers of 20 different nationalities, belonging to the#Dysturb photojournalist group, have taken pictures in all continents and pasted 70 large format pictures in Paris, France, under the slogan “A world of crises, a world of solidarity.” This was the biggest operation ever launched by #Dysturb. The pictures aim at showing the general public, particularly those who do not regularly read newspapers, to experience the crises that are currently shaking our world, through the eyes of photojournalists. Every day these journalists, often with little means, endanger their lives to bear witness to what is happening around the world. The operation, organized in partnership with the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC), the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was made possible by the cooperation of several UN organisations, including UNRWA.
• Shelter update
• Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 130.65 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or demolished during the 2014 summer conflict. As of 3 November 2015, UNRWA has completed the payments to over 66,300 Palestine refugee families – more than half of the caseload – for minor repair works, to 702 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, to eight families for major repair works and to one family for reconstruction. Payment transfers for over 11,600 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for 134 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters are ongoing.
• Over 13,100 families have received a rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014. Disbursement of subsequent installments entailed further eligibility checks through which over 9,900 families have received the relevant rental subsidy payments during the period from January to September 2015.
• Due to lack of sufficient funding, to date, over 47,000 refugee families have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter. 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 assistance to these families. Also, due to lack of funding 7,200 refugee families were not yet able to start the reconstruction of their totally demolished home.
Operational environment: Rage and frustration about the situation in Gaza and the West Bank have prompted protests by mostly Palestinian youths in solidarity with Al Aqsa Mosque and the situation in the West Bank. Protests were held across the Gaza Strip, often near the perimeter fence (see Summary of Major Incidents).
Regular protests were also held across the Gaza Strip in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, to demand the opening of the Rafah Crossing by the Egyptian authorities or to commemorate the Balfour Declaration.
On 30 October, an unexploded ordinance (UXO) detonated accidentally when an 11-year old refugee child and UNRWA student was handling it in northern Gaza. The child sustained shrapnel wounds.
Also on 30 October, firearms were used in a dispute between cousins in Gaza city; two persons were injured and several were arrested.
“This job changed my life,” Khadra explained. “My salary is the only income source my family has. Before I worked in the Health Centre, my financial situation was very difficult; this job gave me a chance to improve my life.”
Before working in the Health Centre, Khadra was classified as abject poor (meaning those Palestine refugees who are living below US$ 1.74 per day) by the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP). She was considered a special hardship case, unable to meet her and her family’s basic food needs. Through her employment at the UNRWA Heath Centre eight years ago, Khadra was able to curb the effects of poverty and is now able to earn enough to support her family.
“I am responsible for cleaning the Health Centre, but I also support elderly persons and other patients whenever I can. I am happy to be a productive person in the community; my job is important and I like it. I also did not stop working during the 2014 hostilities for example, and I am glad for that because this way I was able to help my people,” Khadra said.
The UNRWA Gaza Field Office maintains a practice of limiting the hiring of manual workers to Palestine refugees registered as special hardship cases (or Social Safety Net cases). Mentally and physically suitable candidates, who have conducted and passed competitive interviews, are placed on a roster to fill manual worker vacancies such as guards, school attendants, sanitation laboureres, and cleaners. Since the implementation of this practice in 2007, more than 520 special hardship households gained employment at UNRWA through this process.
Poverty and food insecurity are wide-spread in Gaza, and a large segment of the population struggle to provide for their families. The socioeconomic situation in Gaza is in steady decline; years of conflict and closure have left 80 per cent of the population dependent on international assistance.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
In October the UNRWA Safety and Security Division (SSD) reported an increase in demonstrations in Gaza, with a total of 131 demonstrations, out of which 110 can be attributed to Palestinian support towards the ongoing tensions in the West Bank and Al Aqsa Mosque. A total of 15 Palestinians, among them refugees, had reportedly been killed by Israeli security forces in these protests related to Al Aqsa Mosque, and approximately 500 were injured. SSD also reported an increase in rocket fire incidents in Gaza, with a total of 23 incidents in which a total of 39 rockets were fired (17 test rockets and 22 rockets directed towards Israel out of which 15 dropped short and seven landed in Israel).
Further, SSD reported a total of 25 Israeli naval fire incidents and four Israeli air strikes.
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian fisher boats and Palestinians near the perimeter fence on an almost daily basis; on 30 October Israeli patrol boats also reportedly fired several shells towards southwest Gaza city. No injuries were reported.
Regular protests in support of Al Aqsa mosque and the West Bank were held in the vicinity of the perimeter fence on an almost daily basis, mostly east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, near Erez Crossing, east of Gaza city or in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. During these protests, some participants reportedly approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with gunfire and tear gas. A total of approximately 30 persons were injured due to Israeli gun fire and approximately 40 suffered from gas inhalation.
On 29 October militants fired three test rockets towards the sea. No injuries were reported.
On 30 October a Palestinian militant reportedly fired sniper bullets from northern Gaza towards Yad Mordechai in southern Israel. The bullets hit a coffee shop inside a petrol station. No injuries and minor damage was reported.
On 30 October militants fired two test rockets towards the sea.
Thanks to generous donors, UNRWA has overcome its immediate and most serious financial crisis and was able to partially bridge the US$ 101 million deficit in its General Fund; to date, a shortfall of US$ 2.61 million remains.
In response to the unprecedented needs faced by Palestine refugees, and the continuous financial shortages and unstable financial footing of the Agency, UNRWA is currently exploring options for additional funding, but is also implementing a series of austerity measures aimed at decreasing costs where possible while preserving essential services to refugees.
US$ 247 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$ 473 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking US$ 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including US$ 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, US$ 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and US$ 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. Read more in the 2015 oPt Emergency Appeal.
• The Rafah crossing was closed between 27 October and 3 November.
• The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 27 to 29 October and from 1 to 3 November. On 30 October it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 31 October.
• Kerem Shalom was open from 27 to 29 October and from 1 to 3 November. It was closed 30 and 31 October.