8 September, 0800hrs – 11 September, 0800hrs | issue 59
Past 24 hours: Thirteen days after the announcement of the ceasefire, relative calm prevails in Gaza. On the morning of 8 September, the Israeli navy opened fire towards Palestinian boats, forcing them ashore. Whilst calm for calm continues between Gaza and Israel, civil unrest is a significant threat, and it is feared that anger might also turn against UNRWA and its staff. Displaced in the North are refusing to leave specific UNRWA schools and move to another shelter, unless the Agency agrees to an immediate comprehensive financial assistance package. The consolidation process of UNRWA shelters is required so that buildings can be made available for Sunday’s planned start of the school year. In the Middle Area, UN vehicles were blocked and anti-UNRWA leaflets were distributed near a shelter. The National Consensus Government, formally in place since 2 June 2014, is yet to resume effective power. Key issues remain unsolved, for example payments to former de facto government staff who continue reporting to work but have received no full salaries for over one year, and no salaries since March 2014.
After any armed conflict it is common for casualties and fatalities to continue to rise due to risky behaviour and environmental factors that can cause unexploded ordnances to detonate. The situation in Gaza is no different. According to recent UN assessments, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) are widely dispersed in and around homes, public spaces and buildings throughout the Strip. It is estimated that more than 1,900 items have yet to be secured, including tank shells, missiles, aircraft bombs, and shrapnel. This high contamination of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) poses a major risk to the population, especially children.
As part of its continued humanitarian response work, UNRWA’s Safety and Security Department (SSD) is implementing ERW training to improve the safety and security of the Agency’s staff and communities in Gaza. Upon completion of the training, participants are equipped with knowledge on how to safely identify, mark and report ERW, through the mechanism of ‘recognize-retreat-report’. To date, 712 UNRWA staff have received the training. Social workers and engineers who are involved in the shelter assessment of damaged houses were the first to be taught.
The training aims to improve awareness of the dangers that ERW pose. It is also designed to help participants understand that UNRWA wants to make sure they are equipped and confident with the knowledge to safely conduct their work in a volatile atmosphere.
The ERW training is being provided by Karly Kupferberg, an UNRWA ERW and Risk Education Manager. "This first round of training is unique as it targets frontline staff who will be working on the ground and helps them practice certain risk avoidance behaviour that they require in the field, as well as in their daily lives in Gaza,” said Karly. “Feedback from the trainees shows that even though participants have experienced a lot of conflicts in Gaza they are not aware of how dangerous certain types of behaviors are and are very thankful towards the Agency for making this a compulsory training before they carry out their work in the communities."
Ms. Kupferberg also stressed that it was crucial that participants convey what they have learned to their families for their safety as well.
One of the participants in the training is Ahmad Jawdat Ajour, a 28 year old civil engineer who is assisting with the shelter assessment of damaged houses throughout the Gaza Strip. "This training is really beneficial, informative and comprehensive; it provides us with clear instructions as to how to handle matters relating to ERW and unexploded ordnance,” said Ahmad. ‘Human beings instinctively avoid danger and risks, but this training really helps us to organize our thoughts and address the possible scenarios we might encounter in the field."
UNRWA’s ERW training is not limited to social workers and engineers, and UNRWA aims to train all staff over the coming months. The goal is for all UNRWA personnel and communities in Gaza to benefit from the training.
“The Agency’s Safety and Security Division is organizing a wider awareness campaign for the community which currently involves animations and dramas on the dangers of ERW, broadcast on UNRWA TV and through community media channels,” said Karly. “This effort will be bolstered through awareness raising such as posters in all UNRWA schools and throughout UNRWA facilities explaining the “Do’s and Don’ts” regarding ERW.”
In addition to the awareness campaign, an ERW training of trainers will be provided to reach the wider community. When children are acclimated back to school there will also be a Risk Education training of teachers that will benefit students in UNRWA schools. The ERW training and related future activities are in line with the Agency’s ongoing effort to do what it can to provide a safe and secure working and living environment for all people in Gaza.
The ceasefire holds.
Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 118 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014.
The revised flash appeal can be found here.