GAZA CRISIS APPEAL
$ 367 MILLION REQUESTED/FUNDING REQUIREMENTS: The Gaza Crisis Appeal presents the joint strategy of the humanitarian community, including UNRWA to respond to the current crisis in the Gaza Strip. The requirements presented here update those previously shared with donors through the Gaza Preliminary Needs and Requirements report of 24 July 2014.1 The situation in Gaza is volatile and needs are changing by the day. The majority of these figures are valid as of 3 August 2014. Planning figures are also subject to update once needs assessment data becomes available.
1.8 MILLION EST. NUMBER OF PEOPLE AFFECTED AS A RESULT OF THIS CRISIS
490,000 ESTIMATED DISPLACED PEOPLE IN NEED OF IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE; ALL 1.8 MILLION ARE BEING TARGETED IN SOME WAY BY THE PROJECTS IN THIS APPEAL
THE CRISIS IN GAZA
On 8 July 2014,2 a humanitarian emergency was declared in the Gaza Strip, following an escalation in hostilities involving intense Israeli aerial and naval bombardment and Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. This is the worst escalation of conflict in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Israeli occupation, surpassing the length and severity of Israel's 2008/2009 Operation “Cast Lead”.
The humanitarian impact of these strikes in Gaza comes at a time of heightened vulnerability and instability in Gaza. Unemployment has increased dramatically since mid-2013, following a halt of the illegal tunnel trade and, exacerbating the impact of the blockade and the longstanding access restrictions imposed by Israel which have been preventing any meaningful economic activity. Additionally, public sector salaries, including those of the security forces, have not been paid regularly since August 2013. The ongoing energy crisis, worsened dramatically by the shelling of the Gaza Power Plant on 29 July and causing its shutdown, has created power outages currently up to 22 hours a day. This has had a devastating effect on the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and health sectors and has left Gaza on the brink of a public health crisis. Since the current escalation in hostilities began, the situation on the ground has evolved rapidly and needs have increased, particularly since the start of an Israeli ground operation on 18 July. This has resulted in a high level of civilian casualties, children and women in particular, the widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure and a steep rise in internally displaced persons (IDPs). Thousands of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) remain in areas affected by the conflict and represent an increasing threat for civilians as well as for humanitarian workers however; the difficulties in moving around the Gaza Strip due to the security situation make the initial clean-up of densely populated areas and public spaces difficult.
The ongoing fighting has resulted in significant civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure and civilian property all over Gaza. The current hostilities have so far resulted in 1,717 fatalities (of which, over 80 per cent are civilians in the 1,176 cases where identity and status has been confirmed, including 196 women and 377 children). Over 9,000 people have been injured, including at least 222 boys and 132 girls aged between one month and 17 years old). Many families have lost multiple family members. As of 3 August, at least 114 families have lost three or more family members in the same incident, with a total of around 630 fatalities (over 35 per cent of all fatalities). As of 3 August, over 10,600 homes were severely or completely destroyed.
Amidst near non-stop bombardment and fighting, there is no safe place for Palestinians in Gaza. Nearly half the Gaza Strip has been declared a “buffer zone” by the Israeli military, creating massive displacement. The number of IDPs exceeds 292,534 in UNRWA, governmental schools and other public buildings. Up to 200,000 may be taking shelter with host families. The total number of IDPs could therefore number around 490,000 (over a quarter of the population). IDPs constitute one of the key vulnerable groups identified for assistance and their numbers have continued to grow dramatically throughout the crisis, placing a strain on the existing local capacities as well as the humanitarian partners who are catering to their needs.
Ongoing hostilities in Gaza have rendered almost impossible for humanitarians to deliver its mandate to save lives, protect and assist those in need, including the ability of medical staff to save lives, of aid workers to meet needs, or for technicians to repair damage to infrastructure vital to the population.
The paramount concern right now is the protection of civilians and adherence to international humanitarian law and human rights law, particularly the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack and respect for the right to life. Credible reports about the targeting of civilians and civilian objects, protected under international humanitarian law, is a serious concern. The bombardment and military ground operations have resulted in an unacceptably high civilian death toll, large scale displacement, and significant psychological trauma. There is significant, credible evidence that the parties to the conflict are violating international humanitarian law, including actions that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In a very serious incident on 20 July a home in eastern Khan Younis was targeted in an airstrike, killing at least 25 persons including 18 children and 5 women, two of whom were reportedly pregnant. A further three persons were injured. According to information received, one person, allegedly a member of the Al Qassam brigades, was in the building when the airstrike took place. More recently, for example, in another serious incident on 3 August, an Israeli aerial attack on the house of Al Ghoul family in Rafah resulted in the killing of eight family members including two women, three children (1 month, three years and 13 years old) and injury to seven others.
Apart from the protection of civilians and the evacuation and treatment of those injured, the main priority for humanitarian agencies continues to be the provision of food, water, mattresses and hygiene items to those displaced, as well as fuel, essential water, health and solid waste facilities to affected populations, including the non-displaced. The protection of service providers and humanitarian workers during these life-saving operations is of utmost importance. All members of families who have experienced a death, injury or loss of home over the past few weeks require direct and specialized psychosocial support, including at least 373,000 children. Children, women and other vulnerable groups who have been displaced require protection responses to address risks of exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation and gender based violence, particularly those staying in overcrowded shelters.
Public infrastructure and services continue to be affected by hostilities, including several attacks on UNRWA schools that were used as shelters by families. A 24 July attack on an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun being used as an IDP shelter left at least 16 dead and another 200 injured. On 30 July the Jabalia Elementary Girls School, where 3,300 people were taking shelter, was struck at least three times by Israeli forces. At least 17 people were killed, including four children. On 3 August, a missile fired by Israeli forces landed outside the gate of an UNRWA school in Rafah, killing at least nine people, including women and children, and injuring approximately 45. The school was a designated emergency shelter which had been hosting more than 3,000 people displaced by fighting in the area. This is the third occasion in ten days that a UN school had been hit. Since the current emergency started, over 100 UNRWA installations have sustained damage. To date, 141 schools, at least 26 health facilities3 as well as significant and essential WASH infrastructure have been damaged. The ongoing military incursion has greatly increased trauma casualties, which hospitals are hard-pressed to treat without adequate medicines and medical consumables.
Service providers and humanitarian workers are severely constrained in their responses, and risk their lives, due to the prevailing security situation. The security situation has also hampered assessments, resulting in limited capacity to identify and respond to needs of specific groups of affected population such as children and pregnant women amongst IDPs; and sex and age disaggregated information of IDPs is lacking. While the imperative is to save lives, it is also important to plan early recovery activities that can be implemented on day one of a durable ceasefire.