09 October 2016
• To mark and celebrate the international day of older persons, under the theme of “take a stand against ageism”, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) in Gaza organized an honouring ceremony for the elderly at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society hall on 29 September. The event was attended by Ms. Melinda Young, Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza and the Chief of RSSP, in addition to senior staff, and community-based organizations (Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres and Women Programmes Centres). At the end of the ceremony, 300 signatures were collected as a symbolic advocacy push for Gaza society to raise awareness of the situation of the elderly and to demand the establishment of day clubs and education opportunities for them. UNRWA provides ongoing economic and psycho-social support to Palestine refugees through RSSP’s elderly sub-programme which aims to promote aged persons as partners in the development process by strengthening their role and active participation in the advancement of their families and communities. Approximately 4,950 elderly persons benefited from the services (rehabilitation, recreational and provision of assistive devices) provided during 2015.
• On 28 September 2016, the UNRWA Education Programme in Gaza organized a colouring event to colour the famous Japanese Kumamon character, marking an expression of solidarity and friendship with children who have been affected by the earthquakes that hit the Kumamoto Prefecture, southern Japan, in April 2016. The event was organized in cooperation with RESULTS Japan - a non-profit advocacy organization. The event was held at UNRWA Al-Amal Prep Girls School and Khan Younis Prep Boys B School located in the Japanese (Al-Amal) neighbourhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Here, Japan contributed to building house units for thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes due to past armed conflicts. RESULTS Japan will introduce the drawings of UNRWA students at Japan’s biggest international cooperation event called “Global Festa” held in Tokyo which is attended by more than 100,000 visitors every year. It will also organize an exhibition for the coloured drawings – from children around the world including those from Gaza - during the visit of Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, to Japan in October 2016. Japan has long been a valued donor to UNRWA and in February 2016 it contributed US$ 38.21 million to UNRWA, which is the largest ever one-time contribution from Japan to UNRWA.
UNRWA has made the Palestine refugee journey more visibly available to the public through its recently launched digital film and photo archive, accessible at http://unrwa.photoshelter.com. Since its founding, UNRWA has produced and compiled a film and photo archive covering most aspects of the lives and history of Palestine refugees. The Archive showcases UNRWA service delivery throughout the decades and the daily lives of Palestine refugees, as well as iconic images of Palestinians fleeing their homes in 1948, the establishments of camps in the 1950s, the second flight during the 1967 hostilities, the civil war period in Lebanon, the turbulent periods in the second half of the 1980s and the unrest that began in 2000. Today, the Archive consists of more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 60,000 slides, 75 films and 730 videocassettes – over 500,000 assets in total. In 2009, the Archive was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register, thus recognizing its historic value. In 2013, with the support of the Government of Denmark through the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen and other generous donors, UNRWA began the process of digitizing the Archive’s assets to preserve this unique and historic testament to the resilience and steadfastness of Palestine refugees.
• An Agency-wide communications workshop was held in Amman on 27 and 28 September, with the presence of UNRWA communications personnel from all fields – Gaza, Lebanon, West Bank, Jordan and Syria. The workshop was inter-active and consisted of a variety of round-table discussions and presentations. The Gaza communications office gave a presentation on the work and structure of the Gaza-based UNRWA TV satellite channel, as well as on its communications with communities (CwC) activities, challenges and opportunities. The second day of the workshop consisted mostly of a discussion and brainstorming on the Communications Strategy for 2017, which will mark 50 years of occupation of Palestine by the state of Israel.
• UNRWA maintains Chief of Area Offices (CAOs) in all five governorates of Gaza; CAOs represent UNRWA at an area level and represent the Agency to different community groups and authorities on the application of policies and programmes and other operations. In the month of September, the CAO in Gaza’s Middle Area established – under the lead of the Operations Support Office – a Protection Committee to discuss and follow up on protection cases. The committee consists of area representatives from the UNRWA education, health, relief and social services and community mental health programmes. During September, the CAO Middle Area also worked on preparedness activities for the upcoming winter, including the planning and identification of emergency teams to respond to potential flooding in the upcoming winter season. CAOs are also leading monthly meetings of the Area Management teams which consist of area representatives from all UNRWA programmes and serve as platforms to present progress but also to raise, discuss and find joint solutions for ongoing area-related challenges.
• In September UNRWA completed two construction projects worth almost US$ 1.8 million: one maintenance project (43 school buildings) and one school renovation project. A total of 37 infrastructure projects worth US$ 68.77 million are currently under implementation. The total value of projects approved by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) stands at US$ 241.3 million. However, project approval does not imply approval of the materials required to complete the project. This month, UNRWA sent four projects for approval: two of the projects will add 28 new classrooms to two existing schools, a third will allow for the reconstruction of 114 homes destroyed during the 2014 conflict, and the last project includes the construction of 11 generator rooms in schools across Gaza. For more information, please consult the attached September Construction Update.
THE UNRWA SHELTER UPDATE
• UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 3.3 million for reconstruction (~US$ 1.6 million) and severe repair works (~US$ 1.7 million). The funds will reach a total of 588 refugee families across Gaza; they were able to access their assistance this week.
Overview of assistance disbursed
As of 29 September 2016:
• The UNRWA shelter assessment confirmed 142,071 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally destroyed. 5,417 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 123,837 minor damages.
• UNRWA has completed the payments to over 67,060 refugee families for minor repair works, to 3,771 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, to 14 families for major repair works, and to 372 families for reconstruction.
• Payment transfers for over 11,130 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for over 950 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters are ongoing.
• UNRWA continues to pay transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for eligible refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict. All approximately 8,500 eligible families have received the first tranche of rental subsidy payments for 2016, and all approximately 8,000 eligible families received the second quarter payment. In 2015, UNRWA paid TSCA to approximately 9,000 eligible refugee families and from September to December 2014 13,250 families received rental subsidy payments.
Funding gaps and needs – reconstruction
UNRWA has secured funding to reconstruct 2,000 totally destroyed homes. Funding is currently not the biggest barrier to reconstruct homes. Residential reconstruction has been delayed due to initial delays in agreeing a formula to import construction materials under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, complex documentation requirements related to proving title to land, obtaining building and municipal permit, as well as funding shortages in the longer term. For all reconstruction, UNRWA prioritizes families based on poverty status (an excellent indicator for vulnerability in this context) and larger families, unlike other reconstruction actors in Gaza. In order to mitigate the barriers these families face in particular, UNRWA outreach engineers assist eligible families in gathering relevant documentation.
• Payments to over 6,070 refugee families to start repairing their totally destroyed homes are outstanding.
• The total costs of reconstructing their homes amounts to approximately US$ 273.3 million
Funding gaps and needs – rental subsidy payment
• Approximately 7,000 eligible refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict are waiting to receive transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for the third quarter in 2016. The US$ 23.3 million in TSCA needed to assist the 2014 conflict emergency caseload in 2016 has been included in the oPt Emergency Appeal 2016.
Funding gaps and needs – repair works
For repairs of damages of all categories (minor, major and severe), the principal barrier to completing the outstanding repairs is funding. If current conditions remain, including adequate amounts of building material entering Gaza, UNRWA estimates that repairs could be completed within six months from receipt of sufficient funding.
• Over 60,150 families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 67.9 million).
• 3,195 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 28.7 million).
• Payments to 918 families to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes are outstanding (total estimate costs: US$ 8.2million).
• Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of approximately 56,900 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments (first and second tranche payments) to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
• During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
Civilians, mostly youth, continued to protest near the perimeter fence expressing their eagerness to defend Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. When some of them approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gun fire and tear gas. Three persons were injured.
Also other regular protests took place during the reporting week, mostly in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Armed clashes erupted between Hamas police and members of a Salafist group when the former besieged a house in southern Gaza. Two police officers were injured by friendly fire and two Salafist members were arrested. In addition, two persons who were passing by the area on a motorbike also opened fire at the police; they were reportedly drug dealers and were arrested.
Militants attempted to fire one rocket towards Israel; the rocket exploded at the launching site.
Two children sustained burn injuries when a gas cylinder exploded inside a house. Further, one person was killed and three injured in a construction accident. In addition, two family disputes were reported during which firearms were used; no injuries were caused in either incident.
A fire also broke out inside an UNRWA school in Bureij camp, central Gaza due to a short circuit. No injuries were reported.
26-year old Palestine refugee Warda Abu Al Rous lives in Deir El Balah, in the middle of Gaza, in a home together with her husband, his seven brothers and their wives and children. The family is conservative and, says Warda, in the beginning did not allow her to leave the home for outside activities. When Warda learned about the UNRWA-supported Rawafed Community-Based Organization (CBO) and their activities from a neighbour, she started to try to convince her family to allow her to visit the CBO.
“For two and a half years I have been visiting the CBO regularly, but it was very difficult to convince my husband and his family of these visits; yet when my husband saw how happy it made me, he started to support me,” Warda said.
Warda comes from a very poor family and grew up in a remote area; she never learned to read and write properly. In the CBO, she started to take literacy classes and this, she explains, changed her life:
“I did not finish elementary school; because I was not able to read or write, I often felt shy and embarrassed when someone asked me to read something, or one of the children of my sisters in law asked me to help them with homework. Now I feel more confident, I can read the newspaper, the internet, and even some books, and if someone wants me to sign a paper I can read and understand it.”
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in 2015 registered 94,000 illiterate* persons in Palestine – or 3.3 per cent of the population aged 15 and above; in Gaza, 3 per cent (approximately 30,800 persons) are considered illiterate. The illiteracy rate is three and a half times higher among females than males, and over one and a half time higher in rural areas than in urban/camp settings. However, overall illiteracy rates among persons aged 15 years and above in Palestine fell in the period 1997-2015 from 13.9 per cent to 3.3 per cent.
UNRWA supports the development and empowerment of women through various programmes, particularly through its Gender Initiative (GI). Out of the 101 CBOs the GI works with through its various projects, 30 CBOs across Gaza provide social and recreational spaces for women – including the Rawafed CBO - , such as IT, sport, and educational forums for women. Besides these activities, the CBOs are also seen as friendly and safe spaces for women, many of whom feel empowered by doing activities outside their home, establishing networks, participating in public life and taking matters into their own hands.
*According to the United Nations for Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – illiterate person applies to persons unable to read and write with understanding a simple statement related to one’s daily life.
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. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 74 million. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 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 travelers, 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 travelers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.
• Rafah crossing was closed during the reporting week.
• Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. This week it was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 27 to 29 and from 2 to 4 October. On 30 September it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 1 October.
• Kerem Shalom crossing is the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip and is usually open five days a week. It was open from 27 to 29 September and from 2 to 4 October September. It was closed on 30 September and 1 October.