17 August 2016
• To Under the International Youth Day (12 August) theme “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Production and Consumption” the UNRWA Gender Initiative from 7 to 14 August organized an advocacy campaign in cooperation with 20 partnering Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), targeting male and female youths to raise awareness on recycling and environmental issues such as urban agriculture, solid waste management or water and sanitation. The campaign started with a two-day training of 12 male and female youths with an educational background in environmental and agricultural; afterwards, the trained youths organized more awareness sessions, forums and discussions, for a total of 400 young persons (200 women and 200 men) in all areas of Gaza. The sessions were held at the CBOs and not only served to raise awareness, but also to listen to the experience and ideas of participants, particularly how recycling could be used for income-generation, given the strangled economy and high levels of youth unemployment in the Gaza Strip. In a closing event on 14 August approximately 100 youths from all across Gaza came together to share their thoughts and ideas and applied recycling work for solid waste. On the occasion of International Youth Day, the United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Mr. Robert Piper, issued a statement talking about the challenges and opportunities Palestine’s large youth population of around 1.44 million people presents: “While young Palestinians face challenges resulting from social, economic and political marginalisation and feelings of frustration and hopelessness prevail, they, if empowered and given access to productive employment and education, can become active citizens and leaders for change and development,” the statement reads.
• On 28 August, UNRWA will start the scholastic year 2016-2017 in Gaza when over 263,220 students will return to their schools – an increase of 13,100 students compared to the last scholastic year. Over the past 12 months and during the summer holidays, UNRWA – through its construction activities – has ensured the maintenance of its school buildings, including improved access to water and sanitation, continuous electricity supply, and any rehabilitation of premises. In addition, UNRWA education staff such as area education officers, school principals and their deputies are currently undertaking the class formation exercise and concluding all interviews for new teachers and other school-based staff. Teachers will be required to report back to their school one week earlier on 23 August, to support all preparations. In order to welcome all students to a clean and healthy environment, the Education Programme in coordination with the Logistics Office will also organize a cleaning week to clean all 162 school buildings with the support of approximately 1,000 labourers hired through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme. In addition, on the first day of the new school year, each student will receive a stationery package including notebooks and pencils.
• In cooperation with the Japan Gaza Innovation Challenge initiative (JGIC), UNRWA hosted a 2016 Entrepreneur Challenge contest for entrepreneurial youth. The contest consisted of a two-day workshop in the Khan Younis Training Centre, in southern Gaza, where around ten teams, each including five to six participants, had the opportunity to access and network with Japanese investors/social entrepreneurs and present their entrepreneurial ideas in the fields of health care, nutrition, water management, agriculture, education or manufacturing. Project ideas ranged from the development of a new environmentally-friendly and more economical bricks-mixture for Gaza’s construction and reconstruction efforts, to the showcasing of a 3-wheel stair climber to help carry heavy weights up the stairs. The Entrepreneur Challenge was the pilot project of the JGIC which aims to improve the means of livelihood in Gaza, particularly for Gaza youth through creating a scheme to incubate and/or to support start-ups for “life improvement” in Gaza. For UNRWA, the entrepreneurial contest was one of many interventions through which the Agency encourages the development of an entrepreneurial culture to overcome the difficulties and hardships of the dire socio-economic context in the Gaza Strip. Another such example is the Agency-supported GGateway (Gaza Gateway) social enterprise which focuses on the provision of Information Technology services for local and international companies and thereby attempts to create employment opportunities for youth.
• After three weeks full of sports, arts and cultural activities, the 2016 Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) came to an end on 11 August. To give the over 165,000 participating children a chance to show what they had learned and created during the SFWs, UNRWA organized closing ceremonies in all five areas of Gaza. On 15 August, a closing ceremony was held in the Al Zaitoun Preparatory Girls B school in Gaza city, including various dance shows and performances, as well as an exhibition of pieces produced in the recycling workshops implemented with the support of the visiting Belgian artist, Ms. Michèle Vanvlasselaer. The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, attended the ceremony. Through the SFWs, UNRWA created more than 2,200 short-term job opportunities for registered refugees. As part of the Agency’s ongoing commitment to Palestine refugees, UNRWA continues to serve as a primary job provider in the poverty-scarred enclave. Through its Job Creation Programme (JCP) and with a particular focus on youth, the SFW positions varied from animators and clerks, to technicians, cleaners and administrative staff in the UNRWA Gaza Field Office. The activities were also a chance to boost local markets through purchasing large quantities of food and drink from Gaza suppliers for the students participating in the SFWs.
• UNRWA has implemented the Summer Fun Weeks for refugee children annually in Gaza since 2009 (with the exception of 2014 due to the conflict) with a view to mitigating the psycho-social impact of conflicts and blockade on the lives of children, and to provide them with opportunities to play in a safe environment. This year, for the first time, each Gaza area implemented special activities under a specific theme – in addition to the regular arts and sports activities. Themes included democracy and child parliaments and the participating children had the chance to role play what it was like to be the United Nations Secretary-General, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA and the Director of UNRWA Operations during simulations of UN bodies and agencies. Activities also focused on human rights, such as the right to play or the importance of non-discrimination, social inclusion and gender equality. To raise awareness about the importance of and right to safe and clean drinking water, three delegations of UNRWA student parliaments from the Middle Area, Khan Younis and Rafah had the chance to visit the desalination plant constructed by the Children’s Rights and Emergency Relief Organization UNICEF with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities (CMWU). Further, to showcase the right to freedom of expression, many drawing arts sessions took place in all areas to encourage the children to express themselves and their thoughts. For students from grades four to six, a contest was organized under the topic “Draw your Dream for Gaza 2020” and the best drawings will be exhibited in Gaza in the coming weeks. In the Gaza 2020 report from 2012, the UN warns about the deteriorating living conditions in the Gaza Strip, particularly focusing on the scarcity of resources such as water.
• During the reporting week, UNRWA launched the Gaza component of the Agency-wide Leadership Across Borders internal staff training programme, as a follow up from the Leadership Initiative which commenced in Gaza in spring 2015. The Leadership Initiative aimed at training and empowering senior and middle-management UNRWA leaders through theoretical and practical workshops, including personalized coaching sessions. The Leadership Across Borders training will run until September 2017 and is implemented in all five UNRWA fields of operations, with approximately 100 participants per field, and 50 from headquarters. A main focus is to improve the communications and negotiations skills of the participants to foster a more effective and dynamic work environment based on team work, respect and cooperation.
THE UNRWA SHELTER UPDATE
• UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 4.4 million for second quarter transitional shelter cash assistance (US$ 201,300), reconstruction (US$ 3.78 million) and severe repair works (US$ 473,668).The funds reached a total of 924 families across Gaza; they were able to access their assistance this week.
Overview of assistance disbursed
As of 11 August 2016:
• Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 203.9 million(excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the 2014 summer conflict.
• The UNRWA shelter assessment confirmed 142,071 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. 5,417 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 123,837 minor damages.
Completed and ongoing payments
UNRWA has secured funding to reconstruct 2,000 totally destroyed homes. Funding is currently not the biggest barrier to reconstruct homes, rather it is the complex documentation requirements related to proving title to land, obtaining building and municipal permits and finalizing building design coupled with UNRWA vulnerability targeting. For all reconstruction, UNRWA prioritizes families based on poverty status (an excellent indicator for vulnerability in this context) and larger families, unlike other reconstruction actors in Gaza. In order to mitigate this barrier, UNRWA outreach engineers assist eligible families in gathering relevant documentation. With the increase in reconstruction momentum anticipated in the coming months, funding will become a key factor again in the near to medium-term future.
• Payments to 6,113 refugee families to start repairing their totally destroyed homes are outstanding.
• The total costs of reconstructing their homes amounts to approximately US$ 315.5 million
• Approximately 1,000 eligible refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict have not received transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for the second quarter in 2016. The US$ 23.3 million in TSCA needed to assist the 2014 conflict emergency caseload in 2016 has been included in the oPt Emergency Appeal 2016.
Funding gaps and needs – repair works
For repairs of damages of all categories (minor, major and severe), the principal barrier to completing the outstanding repairs is funding. If current conditions remain, including adequate amounts of building material entering Gaza, UNRWA estimates that repairs could be completed within six months from receipt of sufficient funding.
• Over 60,160 families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 67.9 million).
• 3,694 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 33.2 million).
• Payments to 1,089 families to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes are outstanding (total estimate costs: US$ 9.7 million).
• Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of approximately 56,900 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments (first and second tranche payments) to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
• Regular protests took place during the reporting week, predominantly to demand the payment of salaries from the Palestinian Authority, but also in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
• A variety of incidents highlighted ongoing tension in Gaza. One suicide by a 16-year old girl was reported, allegedly by self-strangulation. In addition, a family dispute led to one person killed and another one injured. Four persons were also injured due to the break out of a fire after a gas cylinder explosion – many homes rely on gas for cooking due to the ongoing electricity issues in the Strip.
Kamal Al Deen Hijo (left) and his brother while playing
football on their play station in their home in Al Zahra, Gaza Middle
Area. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
Fourteen year old Kamal Al Deen Hijjo is the captain of the team and one of the Gaza refugee children who represented Palestine in Scandinavia.
“I have played football since I was seven years old, together with my friends in the Nuseirat camp. I never imagined I would be able to represent Palestine refugee children outside of Gaza in this important event,” he said. “I saw many things during our trip, such as trains, airplanes, and different people from other places and cultures.”
The team trained hard to win the prize; for more than nine months they practiced three times per week, even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when drinking water and eating food is not permitted between sunrise and sunset.
Through participation in the Norway cup, UNRWA aims to enhance refugee childrens’ sports skills and team spirit, and also to provide them with a safe space for recreational activities and opportunities to fill their free time and create new friendships.
“I was very happy that my son could leave Gaza and go to Scandinavia; before the blockade on Gaza, I had also travelled outside, and I wanted him to see other places and get to know different cultures as well,” explained Husam, Kamal’s father.
While Kamal is a dedicated footballer and it was one of his dreams to play in Scandinavia against other teams from all over the world, what most impressed him outside of Gaza is that “if you want to travel, or go somewhere, you can just go freely; no one prevents you. I feel for the first time in my life I was able to practice my right to play and my right to move freely.”
The UNRWA Gaza refugee football initiative was generously supported by local Palestinian businesses and UNRWA. In addition, a pitch (oval) in central Gaza to train and exercise during the weeks leading up to the tournaments was provided at no cost by the local community.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
• During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a regular basis. Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians who attempted to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence, and one Palestinian merchant at Erez crossing. Further, 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; one injury was reported. Six Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into southern Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. One Hamas militant died due to an electrical shock received in a tunnel.
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 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 closed during the reporting week.
• 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 9 to 11 August and 14 to 16 August. On 12 August it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 13 August.
• 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 from 9 to 11 August and from 14 to 16 August. It was closed on 12 and 13 August.