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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
16 December 2013




This report is produced by OCHA oPt in collaboration with humanitarian partners.






A winter storm, among the strongest recorded in recent decades, struck the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and Israel on 11 December. It was characterized by strong winds, heavy rains, low temperatures and, in some areas, heavy snowfall. It is estimated that between 8 and 13 December, the Gaza Strip received about 75 per cent of its normal winter rainfall.

The storm exacerbated the already poor humanitarian situation for large segments of the population, particularly those living in the Gaza Strip and in herding communities in Area C of the West Bank. Although abating on 15 December, the adverse impact continues with more flooding possible as the snow melts. In the Gaza Strip, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated in recent months due to an acute fuel and energy crisis, and the long standing restrictions on the movement of people and goods. The shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) on 1 November triggered increased power outages, from 12 to 16 hours a day, and the situation worsened due to damage sustained by electricity feeder lines from Egypt and Israel on 12 December, which were subsequently repaired.

The power situation has now improved following an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Qatar to purchase industrial fuel to cover limited operations of the GPP for one month. Around 1.2 million litres of fuel, including 475,000 litres of donated industrial fuel and around 250 tons of cooking entered on Sunday 15 December, allowing the GPP to resume limited operations for the first time in 46 days. However, the Gaza electricity company estimates that rolling power outages will still occur at 12 hours per day, particularly given that current power demand remains at peak levels, In addition to causing flooding, the storm badly impacted Gaza’s already overstretched water and sewage infrastructure with several water storm lagoons and pumping stations across Gaza city overflowing, causing additional extensive flooding. The situation in most flooded areas has improved except for Gaza city, in part due to mobile pumps, which were transferred from Israel on 13 November.

Approximately 10,000 people were displaced to temporary shelters and relatives’ homes at the height of the storm. Around, 1,000 were still seeking shelter in three schools as of 15 December. Most schools are now operating normally as of 16 December, In Gaza, plant production has been most affected, particularly greenhouses, open fields and fruit orchards. It is feared that the entire cash crop season has been lost. Significant damages were also suffered by the livestock sector with an estimated 20,250 chickens reported perished from the storm. Food insecurity remains high in Gaza (57 per cent) and thus the impact on food prices and access to food for vulnerable people will need to be closely monitored in the coming days.

On 13 December, the Erez Crossing with Israel was flooded and suffered structural damage, and only partially opened on 17 December. Medical evacuations to hospitals in the West Bank and Israel are being temporarily carried out through Kerem Shalom Crossing, normally used for goods. The Israeli authorities have also announced an extension of the operating hours of the crossing to 12 hours per day. Rafah Crossing with Egypt remains closed for the fourth successive day. According to local authorities in Gaza, thousands of Palestinians are stranded on both sides waiting to cross.

In the West Bank, the impact remains less evident due to a continuing lack of access to many areas. Thousands of homes and shelters in the West Bank are estimated to have sustained some damage. The governorates most affected by the snow are Nablus, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. Other areas in the northern West Bank (Salfit, in particular) have been affected by heavy rainfall, which has caused flooding and damage to homes. Major roads remain closed and poor conditions are affecting food distributions to Bedouins and herders in Area C. UNRWA continues to monitor and respond to needs arising in all 19 refugee camps, many of which remain without adequate power. Most schools in the West Bank remain closed.

The lack of adequate planning and inability to obtain building permits has contributed to the precarious nature of housing and animal shelters in many herder communities in Area C of the West Bank, compounding the impact of the extreme weather; several herding communities had their structures demolished one day before the storm struck, prompting the UN Humanitarian Coordinator to call again for a halt to demolitions due to their humanitarian impact. This population has been also affected by significant livestock losses due to the storm and it is anticipated that further losses will occur due to the spreading of diseases.




Needs

Gaza Strip

Response
Gaps
Needs
Response
Gaps

Food Assistance

Needs
Response

Gaza Strip

West Bank

Between 11-15 December, WFP provided emergency food assistance to 181 families, a total of 1,000 people, consisting of wheat flour, pulses, sugar, vegetable oil and salt.
Gaps
Agriculture

Needs

Gaza Strip

West Bank
Response
NTR

Gaps

Needs
Response
Gaps

Response and Gaps
NTR



Needs
Response
Gaps
Coordination
In the Gaza Strip key UN and governmental organizations have been involved in monitoring the situation and coordinating responses: UNRWA has set up an operations room; the CMWU is following on up on WASH needs and requirements, in coordination with the WASH cluster and the ICRC, including with Israel, and with the support of UNSCO; the MoSA is coordinating the needs assessments and distribution of food and NFIs, with various actors in the food security sector and in coordination with the Shelter/NFI cluster. OCHA has been liaising with all the above bodies to facilitate their efforts.

The overall response coordination in the West Bank has been led by the various Governorate offices, along with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the Palestinian Civil Defense. Cluster and sector leads have been working closely with their counterparts in key ministries and field coordination has been ongoing between the national and international partners, with the support of OCHA, to optimize existing capacities and avoid overlaps. OCHA has also established an inter-agency online database, to track needs and response at the community level. Clusters coordinators and governmental counterparts are feeding information into this system.

The Humanitarian Country Team held an extraordinary meeting on 14 December, led by the Humanitarian Coordinator, James Rawley, focusing on the assessment and response to the extreme weather. The Inter-Cluster Coordination Group held an ad hoc meeting to coordinate assessments for Gaza on 15 December.



Ongoing needs assessments by various humanitarian actors, aimed at identifying the scope of interventions and funding required to address the impacts of the storm, will continue during the coming days.

Ongoing needs assessments by various humanitarian actors, aimed at identifying the scope of interventions and funding required to address the impacts of the storm, will continue during the coming days. The 2013 Consolidated Appeal (CAP) is 63 per cent funded. However, funding has been uneven across Sectors and Clusters. Key sectors for the current response, such as WASH and Agriculture have received low funding, with only 31 and 42 per cent of requested funds met, respectively. Protection Cluster projects received 63 percent funding; however, of these, none of the nine shelter-related projects received full funding, and four received zero funding.

In response to the storm, OCHA is encouraging partners to r apply to the Emergency Response Fund (ERF), which provides rapid funding to NGOs and UN agencies to support humanitarian activities in emergencies. The ERF has already received a proposal from MA’AN Development Centre to mitigate the risk of extreme weather in Area C of West Bank.

Various Islamic countries and charities have pledged assistance to Gaza, most notably a USD 32 million package by Qatar to operate the GPP.




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