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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
11 September 2015


1 September - 8 September 2015 | Issue 109

With the 2015/2016 school year now underway, UNRWA school attendance rates have steadily normalized, growing from around 75 per cent at the beginning of the school year to a current attendance rate of 96 per cent. UNRWA runs a total of 257 schools in Gaza. At the start of the school year 61 schools are operating on a single shift basis and 192 are operating on a double shift basis, while a total of four are operating on a triple shift basis. For the new school year, four new school buildings have been opened, one in Deir El Balah in central Gaza, two in western Gaza city, one in Jabalia and one in Beit Hanoun, both in northern Gaza. In UNRWA schools, students do not only find a safe and secure place to learn and develop, but the Agency’s Community Mental Health Programme also continues to offer individual and group psycho-social counselling for the children, many of whom continue to suffer from their experiences during last summer’s conflict. Palestine refugee children in Gaza and across the region face incredible obstacles in obtaining quality basic education, with protection crises, armed conflicts, regional turmoil and socio-political barriers threatening their access to schools. Yet despite this Palestinians continue to emphasize the value of education for their children. In Gaza, the first semester of the school year runs until 7 January, 2016; the second semester starts on 24 January, 2016 and runs until 1 June, 2016.

UNRWA is delighted to welcome its new Director of UNRWA Operations (DUO) in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, who commenced with the Agency on 1 September. The DUO has a thirty-year career in the United Nations system and brings extensive peacebuilding, humanitarian response and protection expertise to the senior role. Mr. Schack joined the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in August 1985 after having worked as an Associate Attorney in Copenhagen and with the Danish Ministry of Industry. His most recent posting with UNHCR was for more than two years (2013-2015) in Afghanistan as Agency Representative and Country Director. Mr. Schack was the United Nations Special Adviser Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), from April to July 2012. Prior to this, he served for two years the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in the Central African Republic. This appointment was in addition to the nominations in October 2009 as the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, as well as UNDP Resident Representative in the country. Between 1985 and until the appointment as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, UNRWA’s new DUO in Gaza worked with UNHCR in a number of legal and protection oriented functions in Senegal, Hong Kong, UNHCR Headquarters, the Asia Bureau, the UNHCR Special Operation in the former Yugoslavia and in Sri Lanka. In 2000, he was appointed to Iran as the Deputy Representative before a three years assignment as Head of the Policy Unit, Europe Bureau, UNHCR Headquarters. From 2007 to 2009 he was the UNHCR Representative in Burundi. In each of his roles the functions were predominately associated with negotiations involving all those affected by or involved in refugee situations, internal displacement and repatriation operations, with additional experience in development oriented reintegration programmes. Mr. Bo Schack holds a Law Degree from the University of Copenhagen. He studied International Law at the European College in Bruges, Belgium and obtained a Master's Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the Open University Business School, United Kingdom. With the arrival of Mr. Schack the Agency also announces the departure of Mr. Christer Nordahl, UNRWA’s former Deputy Director, who took up the position of Interim Director of Operations for a two-month period. UNRWA Gaza thanks him for his leadership during this period

Since early September, UNRWA has been implementing a Shelter Cash for Work (SCfW) project in Gaza, designed to offset temporary accommodation costs through short term employment opportunities supporting early recovery efforts. UNRWA created this SCfW project in light of the huge shortfall in its US$ 720 million required for the Agency’s strategic response to the summer 2014 conflict. All registered Palestine refugee families whose shelters were identified by UNRWA as uninhabitable are eligible to participate in an optional three-month employment placement (up to two opportunities per family household). Participants will earn US$266 per month, which is slightly higher than the monthly transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) payment which ranges from US$200-$250 per month depending on family size. Eligible families are not obligated to participate; participation is entirely voluntary. The Agency sent SMS notifications to approximately 4,900 refugee families. There has been a mixed response in the community and only 304 families have applied. The funding for this project is earmarked and part of the emergency response. While reasonable funding for this project is secured, traditional TSCA funding is uncertain for the remainder of 2015.

The UNRWA Collective Centre Management Unit (CCMU) has organized a training of trainers (TOT) to build the capacity of UNRWA personnel in the management of designated emergency shelters and Collective Centres (CCs) during and post emergencies. The training is based on lessons learned and training guides designed for UNRWA personnel to roll out future trainings. The sessions run from 6-10 September and include mandatory modules on the establishment and management of shelters and the implementation of food assistance, psycho-social and community mental health, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, safety and security, and registration procedures. During the training, participants are introduced to standard operating procedures, tools and guidelines and how to use these during or after an emergency. Approximately 35 emergency-experienced UNRWA personnel from different areas of Gaza and from various departments such as health, relief and social services, logistics and education, participated in the training. This TOT will be complemented by an interagency training scheduled for later this month.

To address increasing diabetes rates among Palestine refugee communities in Gaza, UNRWA has partnered with the not-for-profit development organization Microclinic International (MCI) to build up the capacity of UNRWA’s medical staff through the Microclinic Programme for Diabetes Prevention and Management. This programme aims at involving communities to choose and sustain healthy lifestyle changes to prevent or manage diabetes. From 10 August to 22 September, twice a week UNRWA is training its nursing staff on the prevention of diabetes so they are equipped to train and pass their knowledge to patients and the patient’s support network such as families and friends. The training takes place in UNRWA Health Centres in Gaza City, Nuseirat (central Gaza) and Khan Younis (southern Gaza). To maximize its reach to the Gaza population the training will also include staff members from the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The interest of foreign delegations to visit and follow up on humanitarian projects supported by their governments in Gaza remains high. A delegation from the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) visited Gaza on 1 September, 2015 when UNRWA representatives organized a visit to a refugee family living in the heavily destroyed neighbourhood of Shujaiya, in eastern Gaza; the family had received UNRWA shelter assistance funded through BMZ and the German delegation heard about their experience and background. During the reporting week, a delegation from the Representative Office of Japan in Ramallah also came to Gaza to visit a Japanese-funded project in an UNRWA Health Centre in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Furthermore, from 7 to 9 September UNRWA received a delegation from the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) who met with UNRWA staff and visited some of the projects SFD funds, including the construction site of Al Azahar university in Gaza city (implementation of which is supervised by UNRWA), a completed UNRWA Health Centre in Rafah and the Rafah Re-housing Project, now in its last and third construction phase. This project is UNRWA’s largest refugee rehousing project and phase three will include 230 houses accommodating 1,310 Palestine refugees. Since commencement, the project has provided more than 1,700 housing units for some 10,000 refugees. The project is set for completion in March 2016. Through its three phases the construction project has created more than 160,000 working days in the Gaza Strip for some 10,000 labourers.



Operational environment: The environment in Gaza has becoming more difficult and tense over the past few weeks. The UNRWA Safety and Security Division (UNSSD) registered in its monthly report for August 2015 a total of 28 crime incidents in Gaza, of which 14 are reported to be family disputes. Furthermore, UNDSS reported 82 demonstrations in August, with 46 of them held against UN agencies.

On 5 September, an alleged dispute between supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian politician Mohammad Dahlan resulted in 10 injuries and the arrest of several persons by the police.

On 7 September a dispute between a client and a shop owner in Gaza city resulted in the owner firing shots from his pistol. No injuries were reported.

On 7 September an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) was found in an agricultural area in central Gaza; the Ordnance Disposal Police defused it.

Repeated protests continued during the reporting week, with protestors demonstrating against UNRWA’s newly launched Shelter Cash for Work pilot project or in solidarity of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.



Kana’an Abu Libda with his grandchildren in his new housing unit in the Saudi-funded Rafah Rehousing Project.  Photo credit: © UNRWA 2015. Photo by Khalil Adwan.
Kana’an Abu Libda with his grandchildren in his new housing unit in the Saudi-funded Rafah Rehousing
Project. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

62-year old Palestine refugee Kana’an Abu Libda, a father of seven, used to live in the “Brazil” refugee camp in Rafah, southern Gaza. However, in 2003 his house, together with many others in the camp, was demolished by Israeli forces and his life was turned upside down.

After losing their home, the family received rental subsidy payments through UNRWA to be able to rent a temporary shelter. However, “constantly moving from one house to another was very difficult because we never felt that a house was really ours; we were not able to change or fix things or give it our own touch,” Kana’an explained.

After more than 10 years living in temporary accommodation, in June 2014 the Abu Libda family received a housing unit in phase two of the Rafah Rehousing Project. “We felt such relief when we received the shelter; after a long time we were finally able to settle down again in a house that is just for us,” Kana’an said satisfied.

The Abu Libda family’s house in the Rehousing Project consists of three floors, each with two rooms. The space is very tight, since his married sons, their wives and their children, also lived in the housing unit. However, despite the difficulties, Kana’an is very thankful for the new home: “The house is very clean, there is an automatic water generator and the electricity lines are very good; we also have a refrigerator, a washing machine and a cooking stove.” And he added: “We do appreciate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for funding this project that helps people like me to keep our dignity in these difficult times; and we also see what an important role UNRWA plays in supervising, implementing and following up on such projects.”

After more than ten years of searching, hoping and moving from one place to the other, the Abu Libda family has finally found a real home again.


Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the security fence or towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 1 September Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian who allegedly illegally tried to cross into Israel from southern Gaza. On 2 September, Israeli troops fired towards and arrested a Palestinian in northern Gaza who illegally tried to cross into Israel. The person was injured. On the same day, two Palestinian families of 11 persons (two men, two women, seven children) tried to enter into Israel from southern Gaza; they were arrested by Israeli troops. On 3 September, Israeli forces fired towards a group of Palestinian young people who were approaching the security fence; an 11-year old child was injured. On 6 September, Israeli troops arrested two Palestinians who allegedly illegally tried to cross into Israel from central Gaza.

On 1 September, militants fired two rockets towards Israel; the rockets dropped short. On 4 September, militants fired six test rockets towards the sea.

On 2 September, stray bullets fired from northern Gaza hit three Israeli houses in the settlment of Nativ Haasara located near the security fence with Gaza. On 3 September, the Israeli air force fired two missiles targeting a Hamas training site in northern Gaza. On the same day, two Israeli tanks and three bulldozers entered approximately 250 metres into central Gaza and conducted a clearing and excavation operation.

On 8 September four bulldozers entered approximately 50 meters into central Gaza and Israeli troops conducted a clearing and excavation operation.

In total, for the month of August the United Nations Safety and Security Division (UNSSD) reported 24 security fence fire incidents, 2 air strikes by the Israeli army, 25 rocket launches, and 18 Israeli naval fire incidents.


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, approximately US$ 78.9 million has been confirmed by donors.

In response to the unprecedented needs faced by the 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$ 227 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$ 493 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. More information can be found here.


The Rafah Crossing was closed from 1 to 7 September. It was open on 8 September in one direction for Palestinian pilgrims.

The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 1 to 3 September and from 6 to 8 September. On 4 September, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 5 September.

Kerem Shalom was open from 1 to 3 and 6 to 8 September. It was closed on 4 and 5 September.

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