In 2016, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was able to rapidly and effectively deliver human development and humanitarian assistance by drawing on its operational strengths, in particular its 31,000-strong work force, the majority of whom are Palestine refugees and members of the communities they serve. The Agency succeeded in providing education to 515,260 children in 2016/17, over 8.5 million primary healthcare consultations, social safety net assistance (including cash and food) to over 254,000 individuals, learning and skills training for 6,677 youth, and microfinance loans to over 39,000 people, including 14,125 refugees. In addition, 5,859 families benefited from shelter rehabilitation or construction assistance. Humanitarian assistance was provided to more than 1.4 million refugees, primarily in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and Syria.
The new Medium Term Strategy 2016-2021 (MTS) was introduced at the beginning of the reporting period as presenting the Agency's statement of intent for UNRWA operations during the 2016-2021 period. Operationalized through 2016-2021 strategic plans and annual operational plans for each field of operations, these texts reflect the growing and evolving needs of Palestine refugees and outline the Agency response. UNRWA also continued to embed protection and gender equality in its core work through the inclusion of protection as one of the five strategic outcomes of the MTS, the development of a new Gender Equality Strategy for 2016-2021, and the establishment of a new Protection Division within the Agency that provides strategic direction and coordinates the implementation of diverse protection and gender equality activities across the Agency. In addition, a Child Protection Framework was developed that outlines the Agency's commitment to protect Palestine refugee children through a comprehensive approach involving all relevant services. Throughout 2016, significant advances were made in both strengthening the Agency protection response and mainstreaming protection standards across UNRWA programming.
In 2016, UNRWA transitioned from the provision of in-kind food assistance to a cash-based transfer approach in Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank. Regarded as a more effective way to extend basic assistance, this new distribution modality reduces administrative and distribution costs associated with the delivery of in-kind assistance and provides recipients with greater freedom of choice and access to a wider range of healthy food options.
In Gaza, the Agency continued to support reconstruction efforts owing to the hostilities in July and August 2014. As of the end of the reporting period, over 81,000 families had completed or were in the process of completing repairs to their damaged homes. Through these efforts, the number of families still displaced as a result of the hostilities continued
UNRWA continued to support the food and nutritional needs of vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza, providing assistance to over 970,000 people in Q4 2016 through both Programme Budget and emergency activities. As informed by refugee inputs, a more diversified and nutritious food basket was introduced for all food assistance beneficiaries, a reform that was based on: (i) health and nutritional values; (ii) public acceptance and local food habits; and (iii) content availability and logistical practicalities. The Agency continued to invest in education by providing access for over 260,000 students through 267 schools in Gaza, of which 712 per cent operated on a double-shift basis. Furthermore, over 4.1 million primary health-care consultations were provided. Additional support was extended to Palestine refugees in Gaza through short-term Cash for Work (CfW) opportunities that benefited over 86,000 labourers and their families. Psychosocial support and awareness-raising was extended to well over 1 million individuals.
In the West Bank, UNRWA provided basic education to 48,884 children and vocational and technical training to an additional 1,675 students. The Agency successfully introduced e-card cash-based transfers for over 36,000 Social Safety Net Programme (SSNP) beneficiaries in place of food aid and cash, giving refugees greater choice and flexibility. Further social safety net support was provided through food voucher assistance and CfW opportunities that were extended to more than 16,000 refugee households (over 91,000 beneficiaries). In partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Agency also furnished in-kind food assistance to more than 35,000 Bedouin and herders vulnerable to various protection threats. In addition, 43 health centres (HCs) and health points (HPs), along with six emergency mobile health clinics, provided 128 million medical consultations throughout the West Bank.
In Syria, UNRWA maintained health, education, vocational training, microfinance, youth support and social services, adapting these efforts to the constrained circumstances of armed conflict by utilizing its network of staff, facilities and resources. Education was provided to more than 45,000 Palestine refugee students through a network of 101 schools and the support of more than 1,800 teachers. Health care continued to be provided through 26 HCs and a mobile clinic. In addition, the Agency's five Family Support Offices throughout Syria facilitated legal counselling and psychosocial support through a network of community development social workers and volunteer lawyers for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) and refugees seeking legal counselling related to civil registration and documentation. The Agency's Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) services continued to be provided to youth in the form of long-term courses for 575 students. Short-term courses were extended to more than 2,000 trainees at 10 training centres across the country. UNRWA microfinance services provided loans to those in need, with demand outstripping supply. UNRWA also continued to supply potable water, maintain sewage works and provide solid waste management in accessible refugee camps.
Cash and food assistance remained priority humanitarian interventions for the Agency in Syria, targeting 430,000 refugees. Due to funding limitations, only three rounds of cash assistance and five rounds of food assistance were implemented against the six rounds originally planned for 2016. Non-food items (NFIs), comprising hygiene kits and other basic items, were provided to up to 280,000 internally displaced Palestine refugees, including up to 3,700 internally displaced persons living in UNRWA-managed collective shelters.
In 2016, Agency operations in Lebanon delivered critical basic services to Palestine refugees, including the provision of basic education to 31,645 children; secondary education for 4,443 students; primary health-care services through 27 HCs; and referrals to child protection, GBV and psychosocial support services. Hospitalization support for the most vulnerable was extended through the creation of the Medical Hardship Fund. Furthermore, social safety net assistance was provided to 61,705 refugees through cash-based transfer assistance, which replaced the direct provision of food assistance. UNRWA also supported refugee livelihoods through targeted vocational training for 1,346 students and access to microcredit initiatives for 224 start-ups or existing businesses. Further support was extended through the provision of potable water for camp
inhabitants and the rehabilitation of 275 shelters. Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) in Lebanon were assisted through access to UNRWA health and education services and direct humanitarian assistance in the form of cash grants for the food, housing and winterization needs of over 32,000 beneficiaries. In addition PRS and Palestine refugees registered in Lebanon (PRL) benefited from dedicated psychosocial support (P55) and the provision of legal advice in response to a range of protection concerns.
In Jordan, UNRWA continued to contribute to the human development of refugees in 2016 through the provision of basic education to 121,368 children and technical and vocational training for 3,594 youth. In addition, 25 HCs provided 1,552,936 primary health care (PHC) consultations. A major policy change saw a shift in SSNP assistance provision modalities from food and cash package distributions to a 100 per cent cash-based transfer that was provided to 58,899 refugees. Cash assistance - for food and NFIs - was provided to meet the critical needs of over 14,500 PRS. Finally, access to microcredit initiatives was provided to 6,888 refugees.
With regard to resource mobilization efforts, during the reporting period, the Agency launched its 2016-2018 Resource Mobilization Strategy (RMS), designed to ensure that UNRWA has the necessary resources to deliver on its mandate and realize MTS strategic outcomes across its five fields of operations. Against ambitious 2016 fundraising targets, performance did not fully meet expectations, especially with regard to overall resource mobilization, deepening partnerships and the diversification of the donor base.