02 October 2016
The Chair of the UNRWA Advisory Commission (AdCom) and Head of the Department of Humanitarian Aid at the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC), Mr. Manuel Bessler, visited Gaza on 25 September, accompanied by a delegation of SDC representatives. The goal of the visit was to get a firsthand impression on the situation in Gaza and UNRWA’s programmes and humanitarian response. The delegation visited refugee families, engaged with UNRWA school parliament representatives and front line staff, and received briefings on various UNRWA programmes, with a focus on protection and including refugee communications. The AdCom is made up of 27 Members and three Observers. It is currently being chaired by Switzerland. It meets twice a year, usually in May/June and November, to advise and assist the Commissioner-General in carrying out the UNRWA mandate. Mr. Manuel Bessler, the head of the AdCom, will also visit all other UNRWA fields in the coming weeks.
Under the theme “art, not trade” Palestine refugee and photographer Ezz Al Sa’anun organized a mobile photo exhibition inside a bus that moves to different refugee camps across Gaza. The aim of the exhibition is to bring arts to vulnerable persons who usually do not go or have access to art shows. So far, the show has travelled to Jabalia and Beach camps as well as in Gaza city. It will move to several other camps and remote areas in Gaza in the coming weeks. At the end of the exhibition the photographer plans to distribute his photos to camp refugee children. UNRWA believes that Palestine refugees are best positioned to describe their experiences, and often pictures are worth a thousand words. For this reason, each year, the EU-UNRWA Photo Competition offers Palestine refugees aged 16-29 an opportunity to capture their hopes and dreams in photos and share them with the rest of the world. The theme for the 2016 competition is “Breaking Stereotypes” and Palestine refugees who meet the age criteria can submit their photos to UNRWA (through the UNRWA website) until 24 October.
The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) aims to empower Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. RSSP activities range from the distribution of food baskets, to the regular assessment of refugees’ poverty status through social workers to define their eligibility for services, or a variety of skills trainings and capacity building mainly for women, children and youth through its Women Programme Centres (WPCs), located in all five areas of Gaza. In the month of August, RSSP social workers visited over 9,750 families across Gaza to assess their poverty status. Further, the disability programme provided 84 refugees with assistive devices through coordination with Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres, and RSSP’s social intervention division – responsible for the domestic, educational, economic, medical, and psycho-social or shelter needs of the most vulnerable refugees – detected 46 new intervention cases and referred an additional 110 cases inside and outside of UNRW to provide assistance. In cooperation with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, RSSP, through its WPCs, offered training courses in leadership for women under the theme “let us change”. RSSP also assists other vulnerable groups such as elderly persons, children who have lost one or both parents and visually impaired children studying at the Agency’s Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza city.
On 27 September, UNRWA organized an introductory visit to UNRWA’s work in Gaza for the Agency for International Cooperation and Development of the local government of Extremadura in Spain (AEXCID). The delegation visited the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired in Gaza city, where UNRWA currently provides education to 128 children with severe visual impairments. The delegation also met with representatives from the UNRWA Health Programme and visited the UNRWA Rimal Health Centre in Gaza where they talked to patients as well as UNRWA health personnel; they also discussed the overall humanitarian situation in Gaza and UNRWA’s strategic response with the Director of UNRWA Operations, Mr. Bo Schack.
Throughout history, colonization and occupations have always had economic dimensions, states a new report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, analyzing the economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people. This is also the case in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), where almost 50 years of occupation impose heavy economic costs on the Palestinian people and their economy. The report describes how the Palestinian economy transformed from a thriving economy of a lower-middle income country to a deformed economic structure on the verge of economic and humanitarian collapse, as the Palestinian people are denied access to their own land, water and natural resources, while their property and assets are being confiscated or destroyed. The report also includes some perspectives on the economics of military occupations which throughout history consistently had economic objectives, typically involving the exploitation and the impoverishment of the occupied. The report describes the relationship between the Israeli economy and that of the oPt as one of two dissimilar and unequal economies, whereby the large, dominant economy practices policies that keep the small economy weak and dependent. As examples for the situation in the oPT, the report mentions policies and factors such as: tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the systematic erosion and destruction of the productive base, loss of land, water and other natural resources, the fragmentation of the domestic market and separation from neighbouring and international markets, a tight blockade on Gaza since 2007, the expansion of Israeli settlements, the construction of the separation barrier and the establishment of the closure policy in the West Bank and the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the oPt. The report will be presented to the UN General Assembly in November 2016. It can be read here.
As follow up to the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting for development assistance to the Palestinian people that took place this month in New York, the AHLC chair - Norway - published a summary of the discussions. The summary includes 14 action points relating to fiscal sustainability, economic development and Gaza reconstruction and recovery. Regarding the latter, the AHLC called for: accelerated reconstruction particularly with respect to infrastructure, energy, water and housing, urging donors to disburse the funds pledged at the Cairo Conference in 2014; increased transmission of construction material into Gaza through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; expressing concern about the potential diversion of construction material entering Gaza, and calling on Israel to publish clear official guidelines and procedures for the import of dual use materials, in order to ensure consistent, predictable access to importing these materials in a transparent way.
THE UNRWA SHELTER UPDATE
A shelter update will be provided in the next Gaza situation report.
• During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On one occasion they injured one fisherman. One shell was fired from the Egyptian side and landed adjacent to a Hamas National Security site in southern Gaza, injuring one Hamas National Security member. In another incident Egyptian patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats. No injuries were reported. The Israeli Air Force shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to Hamas over the coastline in the Gaza Strip; Israeli forces said it had penetrated Israeli area.
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; two of them are in a serious condition.
Also other regular protests took place during the reporting week, mostly in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Three Israeli bulldozers and two tanks entered approximately 70 metres into Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. Militants fired one test rocket towards the sea. No injuries were reported.
Various fire outbreaks were reported due to electricity malfunction or generator explosions, including inside a government school bus, a Community College, a non-residential building which sustained damage, and a restaurant. While no injuries were reported in these incidents, a 27-year old and a 25-year old woman died due to electricity malfunction in their houses in two separate incidents.
In addition, one child died and two persons were injured when a roof made of asbestos of a residential house collapsed; in another incident, a sewage well still under construction collapsed and one worker died and one was injured. Further, two family disputes were reported; in one four injuries were caused due to firearms and in the other dispute homemade bombs and firearms led to four injuries.
19-year-old Heba Abu Gedian (right) is studying with her friend in the UNRWA
Gaza Training Centre in Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
Due to these high rates, entire generations in Gaza are growing up with frustration and a sense of hopelessness at the lack of opportunities to apply their capabilities and high motivation. UNRWA tries to provide opportunities for employment and income through various interventions, such as the Job Creation Programme, construction activities, and skills-based training through its Vocational Training Centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
19-year old Heba Abu Gedia is in her first year of studying to be an executive secretary through the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC) in Gaza city; she lives with her 12-member family in Jabalia camp, located slightly north of the city. Like many refugee families in Gaza, the family lives in severe poverty, and while her sister studies at university, her parents did not have the means to allow Heba to commence her studies as well, due to the high study fees.
“If I had not gotten the opportunity to enroll in the GTC, I would now sit at home, doing nothing with my life. But because of the GTC, I can learn something, develop my skills, and when I graduate I can apply for jobs, hopefully earn an income and improve my life,” Heba explained.
The UNRWA GTC was established in 1953 with a view to provide youth refugees with skills-based training and assist them in finding meaningful employment opportunities, increase their chances in the local job market and help develop the local economy.
“I know the feeling of not being able to commence or complete your studies due to lack of financial resources; I had the same experience when I was young, and the same as Heba, the GTC gave me an opportunity to learn and study, and now I am a senior technical instructor at the very same GTC in the department of commerce,” commented Wajdi Abu Muhisin, Heba’s teacher, with pride.
Other technical and trade courses at the two UNRWA Training Centres, include civil engineering, telecommunications, physiotherapy, carpentry, auto mechanic or masonry. Currently the Agency provides training opportunities for a total of 3,083 youth in both centres. To date, more than 21,000 students have completed the UNRWA Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.
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.
Following the 2014 conflict, US$ 257 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$ 463 million. UNRWA urgently appeals to donors to generously contribute to its emergency shelter programme to provide displaced Palestine refugees in Gaza with rental subsidies or cash assistance to undertake repair works and reconstruction of their damaged homes.
As presented in UNRWA’s occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Emergency Appeal for 2016, the Agency is seeking US$ 403 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt. The Agency requires US$ 355.95 million for programme interventions in Gaza, including US$ 109.7 million for emergency food assistance, US$ 142.3 million for emergency shelter assistance, US$ 60.4 million for emergency cash-for-work assistance, US$ 4.4 million for emergency health/mobile health clinics and US$ 3.1 for education in emergencies. More information can be found here.
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 open from 21 to 23 September for pilgrims. It was closed on all other days.
• 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 20 to 22 and from 25 to 27 September. On 23 September it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 24 September.
• 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 20 to 22 and 25 to 27 September. It was closed on 23 and 24 September.