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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
31 December 2008




Living conditions for many Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) continued to deteriorate during the second half of 2008. As the protracted socioeconomic crisis which began in late-2000 entered its ninth year, Gazans faced unprecedented levels of hardship and distress; in the West Bank, severe and debilitating restrictions on movement limited prospects for recovery and growth and left many dependent on humanitarian assistance. Macro-economic data indicated the continued contraction of the domestic private sector in the West Bank, despite major injections of donor assistance and improved access for Palestinians to Israeli labour markets.

In Gaza, the reporting period began with hopes that the tahdiyeh or temporary ceasefire agreed between Hamas and Israel in June would prompt an overhaul of the embargo that has strangled the Strip since mid-2007. These hopes were given further impetus by the marked improvements in the security situation, both internally and externally, as soon as the tahdiyeh came into effect. Fewer Palestinians were killed in Gaza between July and October than in any four month period since the start of the intifada. The summer months did see some increases in import levels, but from an admittedly minimal base. The total ban on exports and entry of ‘non-humanitarian’ goods remained in effect.

Overall, the impact of increased imports was negligible, and following the initial fillip, levels once again began to fall, reaching an unprecedented low during November 2008. Only 579 truckloads of commodities entered Gaza during that month, or 23 trucks of goods per day for a population of 1,500,000 persons. This compares to 475 per day during May 2007, i.e. before Hamas’s takeover, and around 70 per day in May 2008, i.e. before the truce came into effect1. Supplies of fuel also remained woefully inadequate, leading to continued power outages and rationing. For its part UNRWA was forced to suspend food distributions for to days in October and five in December as a result of tightening access restrictions. Consequently, conditions for a majority of the population remained dire. The intensified blockade choked off economic activity, particularly in the private sector, and continued to undermine delivery of basic services. This situation was compounded by ongoing internal Palestinian strife, which contributed to a reduction in the number of Gazans referred abroad for medical care, led to disruptions in water supply and saw many key public sector workers go out on strike.

There were further rises in unemployment amongst a labour force with one of the highest rates of joblessness in the world. Annual data for 2008 – the first full year of the heightened siege – indicated that the broad unemployment rate, once adjusted for absentee workers, increased to 49 percent from about 38 percent in 20072. The bulk of the job losses came in the second half of the year, suggestive of continuing deterioration in living conditions in the run up to IDF Operation Cast Lead, which began on 27 December 2008.

In the West Bank, Israel took further steps to ease internal Palestinian movement restrictions in the second half of the year, allowing Palestinians to move more easily between the North, Middle and Southern areas of the West Bank. In part improvements were the result of the construction of additional “fabric of life” roads, which reconnected Palestinian communities severed by the Barrier, checkpoints, or restrictions on access to primary road networks. This came at a price of further entrenchment of the closure system, including creeping disarticulation of geographic contiguity, continued exclusion from main West Bank transport networks, which are used exclusively by Israelis, and shrinking of land and resources available for Palestinian development.

Palestinians in the West Bank also benefited from improved access to Israeli labour markets during 2008, with refugees the main beneficiaries. However, higher wage rates from jobs in Israel did not translate into growth in the domestic private sector, and it continued to shed jobs. Overall unemployment levels in the West Bank – already extremely high by regional and international standards – inched up further, reaching over 25 percent for the year as a whole. UNRWA estimates that the West Bank labour market needs to create and maintain an average of around 20,600 additional jobs each year between now and 2015 to maintain employment at current levels. This compares to only 4,400 jobs created during 2008.

In contravention of Road Map commitments renewed in Annapolis in late 2007, the Israeli authorities continued to demolish Palestinian homes and property in East Jerusalem and Area C constructed without permits, which continue to be issued only sparingly to Palestinians. An estimated 126 Palestinian buildings were destroyed during the six month reporting period, according to OCHA data, the vast majority in Area C.

OCHA data indicates that 19 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank during the second half of the year and 968 injured, compared to 34 deaths and 420 injuries during the parallel period in 20073. Most of the injuries occurred in the context of Palestinian anti-Barrier demonstrations and attacks by settlers. Across the West Bank, there was a marked increase in settler violence against Palestinians, in terms of both its frequency and severity. The average number of incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the second half of the year soared to around 40 per month, compared to only 14 per month between July and December 2007. Tensions peaked between 29 November and 5 December, when Israeli security forces evicted Israeli settlers who had occupied a Palestinian building in Hebron city. Around 100 Palestinians were treated for conflict related injuries, most of which were inflicted by settlers armed with stones, clubs and other weapons.

In Gaza, levels of violence began to rise from November onwards, coinciding with a tightening of access restrictions. Fifteen Palestinians were killed during that month. However, casualty numbers remained low until the start of IDF Operation Cast Lead on 27 December, the most destructive attack in Gaza’s history.

UNRWA revised its 2008 Emergency Appeal budget from $237m to $262m as part of the CAP Mid-Year Review process, in response to rapid escalation in food and operational costs. By the end of December 2008 the Agency had received pledges for $177 million, or 67% of total financial requirements for the 2008 revised Emergency Appeal.

Emergency food assistance

Aim: to alleviate problems of constrained economic or physical access to
adequate nutrition amongst refugees

Objectives July – December 2008
    Delivery of 2.5 rounds of food aid to 125,000 families (approx. 700,000 persons), covering an estimated 61% of recommended daily needs, and introduction of school feeding to 198,000 students at UNRWA schools
West Bank:
    Delivery of two rounds of food assistance to 70,800 families (approx. 425,000 persons), covering an estimated 21.5% of recommended daily needs

Report on activities:

In Gaza, UNRWA delivered two rounds of food assistance during the second half of the year, reaching 118,314 families in the first cycle and 119,296 in the second. Despite major hikes in the cost of food commodities during the first half of the year, as part of the CAP mid-year review process, the Agency reduced its caseload from a planned 139,000 families as a result of improvements in information sharing with partners and better screening of beneficiaries against lists of employees, including PA and NGOs. The resulting cost savings partially offset the impact of rising food commodity prices.

In total, the Agency completed four full rounds of food distribution in Gaza during 2008.

The size of the food parcel varied according to family size, with different rations for families of 1-2 persons, 3-4 persons, 5-6 persons, 7-8 persons, 9-10 persons, 11-12 persons and 13+ persons. Parcels covered an estimated 50% of daily calorific needs over the reporting period.

Throughout the reporting period, UNRWA’s humanitarian cargo entered Gaza through the Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossing points, and not through the main commercial crossing point at Karni, which remained closed. These alternative crossing points lack adequate facilities to handle container traffic. Consequently, all container shipments had to be palletized at port prior to transport to the Gaza Strip, leading to considerable additional costs.

Despite some increases in import levels to Gaza during the first half of the reporting period following the Hamas-Israel truce of 19 June 2008, the volume of goods entering Gaza began to fall dramatically from September onwards. During November imports averaged 23 trucks per day, compared to 475 per day in May 2007, i.e. before Hamas’s takeover, over 600 in December 2005, i.e. before the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, and around 70 per day in May 2008, i.e. before the truce came into effect
4. Strict limits on imports of ‘non-humanitarian’ supplies remained in place, whilst all exports remained banned.

Due to the unavailability of flour on the local market as a result of limits on the entry of bulk grain into Gaza, distributions were suspended on two occasions during the reporting period, namely between 28 – 29 October and between 18 – 25 December.

Israeli restrictions on the importation of plastic pellets for the local production of plastic bags used in Agency packing centres forced UNRWA to source pellets from the local market – imported from Egypt – at inflated prices.

The Agency continued its school feeding programme during the second semester of 2008. Between 4 October and 14 November, 99,810 pupils benefited from the programme. As of 15 November, the intervention, which aims to support educational achievement by providing children with a healthy meal to improve concentration and physical / mental capacity for learning, was expanded to cover all of UNRWA’s 221 schools in Gaza. A total of 198,568 students benefited.

As part of emergency programme reforms in Gaza, and in light of quality and loss of value problems that were identified in the first quarter of 2008, a new mechanism to distribute emergency food aid was introduced during the second half of 2008. This included the establishment of four new distribution centres and the reorganization of all centres, to reduce overcrowdedness and provide more dignified conditions for beneficiaries. UNRWA also began to distribute on the basis of lists as opposed to coupons, to reduce costs for beneficiaries and improve efficiency for social workers, and introduced a system whereby food parcels could only be collected by beneficiaries themselves, or pre-identified proxies. A complaints mechanism was also introduced.

In the West Bank, UNRWA had increased its food aid caseload in April 2008, in response to heightened demand for food as a result of rapid price rises. The round of assistance which began in April did not conclude until November 2008. In total, 70,476 families (352,190 individuals) were assisted, with 37,040 (185,992) receiving food aid during the reporting period. The start of the round had been delayed due to protests by refugee representatives over proposed changes to distribution plans5.

Although these were eventually resolved, problems flared up again in the Jerusalem / Central Area during the reporting period, leading to delays in implementation in this part of the West Bank. These were eventually resolved, allowing UNRWA to complete the distribution round by November. In order to minimize the impact of these delays on families in other parts of the West Bank, a second round of distribution began in the Northern and Southern areas in August 2008. By the end of the reporting period 53,415 families (264,105) families had been assisted, out of a total caseload of 69,885 families.

Parcels covered between 18 and 57 percent of daily calorific requirements for a three month period. During the first round families inside camps of one – three persons received one parcel and families with four members and above received two parcels; outside camps, provisions were halved. During the second round, families inside and outside camps received the same size parcels, namely: one parcel for one – three persons, two parcels for four – six persons and three parcels for families of seven members and above.

Access problems continued to prevent UNRWA distribution teams from gaining access to Barta’a enclave – an area between the Green Line and the Barrier in the northern West Bank - forcing UNRWA to provide food to Barta’a residents in a neighbouring village, incurring additional costs for the beneficiaries (around 4,000 persons).

In both fields, food parcels included flour, rice, sugar, sunflower oil and powdered milk. In Gaza luncheon meat was also provided, whilst lentils and chickpeas were distributed in the West Bank.

Food assistance was delivered during the reporting period as per the table below:

During the second half of 2008 UNRWA delivered emergency food assistance to over 172,700 refugee families, or an estimated 810,000 individuals. Since the start of emergency operations in late 2000, UNRWA has delivered over five million food parcels in Gaza and almost 3.5 million in the West Bank.

Emergency employment programmes

a. Direct hire

Aim: to alleviate economic hardship at the household level for refugee families without a breadwinner through the provision of temporary work opportunities

Objectives July – December 2008
    The creation of 1,245,710 work days for 21,315 job holders (contract duration 3 – 12 months)
West Bank:
    The creation of 620,000 work days for 16,400 job holders (contract duration one month and three months)

Report on activity:

In Gaza, UNRWA hired 11,574 refugees to work on its Job Creation Programme (JCP) during the second half of 2008. Overall, 18,274 contracts were active, with JCP workers supporting almost 51,000 persons6. Just under 30 percent of all active contracts were held by women, whilst 1,031 contracts were held by refugees registered as Special Hardship Cases (SHCs) and nine workers were disabled. At the end of the reporting period 7,903 contracts were active.

During the reporting period, 999,263 job days of employment were generated through unskilled, skilled and professional placements and graduate training schemes. Short term employment within UNRWA accounted for 55 percent of all job days created and persons hired, with employment outside UNRWA (i.e. with municipalities and CBOs) and graduate training opportunities accounted for 30 percent and 15 percent respectively. Subsidies ranged from $260 - $500 per month, depending on the nature of the work.

Continued funding shortfalls prevented UNRWA from expanding its job creation programme to meet increased demand for assistance, with the result that the programme continued to fall short of its targets.

In the West Bank, 15,082 persons were hired, supporting over 120,000 dependants. Overall, 16,371 contracts were active during the reporting period, around 35 percent of which were held by women. Job holders worked in UNRWA installations and with municipalities and village councils in a range of unskilled and skilled positions (outside UNRWA only). Skilled positions offered included construction labourers with specialized skills, tailors and supervisors. Activities were ongoing in 32 installations inside all 19 refugee camps in the West Bank and with 164 municipalities and village councils. Labourers working in UNRWA installations, who accounted for around a third of all active contracts, were hired for three months, whilst those employed in municipalities and village councils received one month contracts. In both cases, monthly salaries were $360/labourer and beneficiaries were eligible once a year. 4,144 contracts were active at the end of the reporting period.

Overall, 618,489 job days were created, in line with programme targets during the reporting period. In line with eligibility criteria in the West Bank, no SHCs were assisted.

Summary of work created:

By the end of 2008, UNRWA had created over 16,500,000 days of employment under its job creation programme, since its inception in January 2001.

b. Indirect hire (West Bank only)

Aim: to relieve economic hardship at the household level for families without a breadwinner through provision of temporary work opportunities, whilst improving living conditions through development of infrastructure and revitalisation of the local economy

Objectives July - December 2008

West Bank: The creation of 20,000 workdays for 1,350 labourers (based on monthly and fortnightly rotations)

Due to lack of funding, UNRWA did not implement any indirect hire activities in the West Bank during the first half of 2008.

Emergency cash assistance

Aim: to mitigate the impact of increasing poverty amongst Palestine refugee families through the provision of cash subsidies

Objectives July – December 2008

Gaza: Distribution of cash grants of $10,135,000 to 38,500 households

West Bank: Distribution of cash grants of $9,000,000 to up to 30,000 households

UNRWA’s emergency cash assistance programme is designed to help the most vulnerable refugee families meet their basic needs. The scope of these needs includes protecting access to education, health care and a healthy diet alongside purchases of other essential non-food items, including utility bills and support towards provision of post-injury care. In Gaza, the programme extends to payment of relocation fees to families whose homes have been damaged or destroyed during IDF military operations.

Report on activities:

In Gaza, due to underfunding cash assistance activities remained limited to payment of emergency relocation fees to families made homeless. Grants covered four months’ rental assistance. In total 2,809 families (18,258 individuals) were assisted, including 685 that received two payments, with a total of US$ 1,092,948 disbursed during the reporting period. The Agency also distributed NIS100 to 199,764 pupils at UNRWA schools to help with back to school costs, following the start of the academic year on 5 September. In total US$ 5.7 million was distributed under this programme component.

No in-kind assistance (blankets, mattresses, mats and kitchen kits) was provided by UNRWA during the reporting period.

In the West Bank, cash assistance was provided to 6,543 refugee families (34,491 individuals). This included 6,340 families who received assistance for loss of income, i.e. as a result of the main breadwinner losing their job, and smaller numbers as a result of damage to basic household goods (142) and a small number for other needs (61). In total, $2.4m was distributed, with grants averaging around $365. UNRWA fell far short of targets due to underfunding.

In-kind assistance was provided as follows: 10 families whose homes were demolished by the IDF received tents and blankets and two families whose homes were flooded received kitchen kits.

Since UNRWA’s emergency operations in the oPt began in late 2000, over $84
million has been issued in emergency cash assistance.

Temporary shelter and shelter repair (Gaza only)

Aim: To provide temporary shelter and shelter repair to refugees whose shelters are damaged during the course of IDF military operations or natural disasters or as a result of other non-conflict related emergencies

Objectives July – December 2008
To fund shelter repairs for 2,500 refugee families whose homes have been damaged

Report on activities:

UNRWA’s ability to repair damaged refugee shelters continued to be severely constrained by shortages of construction materials on the local market due to the ongoing blockade. During the reporting period, the Agency was only able to carry out minor repairs to 983 refugee shelters at a total cost of US$ 520,891, i.e. an average cost of just over US$ 500 per shelter. Repairs were all non-structural, i.e. replacement of aluminium, broken windows or wood work and paint / finishing works, using materials available on the local market. Families received cash grants on the basis of assessments by Agency engineers, who also verified completion of work. At the end of the reporting period repairs to 277 shelters were ongoing. A total of US$173,742 had been paid out, with US$ 136,052 outstanding.

Emergency health

Aim: to guarantee access to primary health care services for Palestine refugees in the oPt, mitigating the impact of closures and responding to increased demand for services

Objectives July – December 2009
Both fields:
    To procure additional medical supplies and equipment in response to
    continued increases in demand for services due to the ongoing crisis
West Bank:
    To operate five mobile health clinics offering a wide range of free services to refugees living in isolated areas and those most affected by movement restrictions and the Barrier

    To provide subsidized hospital care to refugees living in isolated areas through contracts with six hospitals

Report on activities:

In both fields the protracted crisis continued to place additional demands on UNRWA’s health care system. Although there was a slight reduction in patient consultations compared with 2008, doctor visits remained far higher than before the Palestinian Legislative Council elections of January 2006. In Gaza, in the second half of the year the total number of consultations was 1,875,927, i.e. around seven percent lower than during the parallel period in 2007, but remained over 15 percent higher than in 2005. In Gaza, the reduction also reflects a suspension of regular services following the onset of Operation Cast Lead on 27 December. In the West Bank, consultations decreased by 1.2 percent compared with 2007 to 936,469, but remained 12 percent higher than during 2005.

In both fields, funds were used to procure medical supplies and equipment, and to subsidize treatment in secondary and tertiary care facilities. Neither field faced shortages of medicines. In total, US$ 936,635 was spent in West Bank and US$1,053,246 in Gaza. In the West Bank, these costs include wages for 190 emergency health staff; in Gaza an additional 531 health staff were employed, although their salaries were covered under the JCP.

Emergency appeal funds ensured the continued operation of five mobile clinics in the West Bank, with services offered to both refugees and non-refugees deprived access to health care facilities due to checkpoints and restrictions on movement. Mobile health teams, which comprise a medical officer, midwife, staff nurses and a pharmacist, offer a range of services for communicable and non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, anaemia, osteo-arthritis, parasitic infections, infectious diseases and first aid. During the second half of 2008 the mobile teams completed 731 visits, assisting almost 65,000 patients. Provision of services to persons living in Barta’a enclave continued to be through a clinic Beer El Basha village, due to access restrictions which prevented the entry of UNRWA mobile teams to the area. To improve refugee access to essential hospital services, and to reduce disability/premature death from emergency and other life-threatening conditions that require secondary and tertiary care at hospitals, UNRWA maintained contracts with 12 hospitals in the West Bank during the reporting period. Six of these contracts – for hospitals in Jenin, Nablus (two hospitals), Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron – were supported under the emergency appeal. Overall, the treatment of 9,113 refugee patients was subsidized during the second half of 2008, with an approximate number of patient days of 20,500, i.e. just over two days per patient. 2,525 of these patients were supported under the emergency appeal, at a total cost of US$ 512,719.

Rehabilitation and physiotherapy services were provided in both fields, including exercises, heat treatment and electro-therapy. In Gaza, seven physio-therapists and ten assistants provided services at nine physio-therapy clinics located at UNRWA health centres in Beit Hanoun, Jabalia, Rimal, Sabra, Bureij, Nuseirat, Khan Younis, Rafah and Tel As-Sultan. 1,051 new injury cases were admitted to physiotherapy clinics, including 36 intifada related cases. These patients received 12,612 physiotherapy sessions.

In the West Bank, eight physio-therapists and one assistant provided services in 14 West Bank refugee camps (Dheisheh, Aida, Azzeh, Arroub, Fawwar, Am’ari, Shu’fat, Kalandia, Qalqilia, Balata, Askar, Tulkarem, Jenin and Camp Number 1). 839 patients were treated, receiving a total of 8,650 sessions. Patients were visited at homes or in physiotherapy centres.

Emergency environmental health

Aim: to ensure access to adequate water and sanitation services for refugee communities in camps and surrounding areas and prevent public health catastrophes

Objectives July – December 2008

Both fields: To provide emergency assistance to municipalities and other service providers to ensure continued public health services, such as water treatment, sewerage and waste water removal

UNRWA has supported delivery of environmental health services under its emergency appeal since 2006, following the withholding of international donor assistance and clearance and VAT revenues by the Government of Israel to the Palestinian Authority. These have left many water institutions unable to replenish fuel stocks and supplies vital for the management of ongoing operations, including treatment plants, waste disposal and sewage systems and pest control. Persistent under-funding of investment and maintenance needs and repeated damage to networks during IDF incursions has increased the risk of public health emergencies.

Report on activities:

In Gaza, during the reporting period, UNRWA donated 682,200 litres of fuel to a number of municipalities and Solid Waste Management Councils (SWMCs) for solid waste activities, at a cost of US$ 774,070. The Agency provided a further 369,060 litres of fuel, valued at US$ 287,068, to various actors in support of different activities, including rubble removal, removal of accumulated waste from temporary disposal sites, reclamation of agricultural land, operation of water and waste water wells, support to hospitals etc.).

Of particular note:
In the West Bank, the emergency environmental health programme carried out a number of emergency infrastructure projects which contributed to improving environmental health conditions in West Bank refugee camps. Activities included rehabilitation of roads, sewerage systems, storm water drainage and water networks. Activities were implemented in Jalazone, Arroub, Nur Shams, Shu’fat, Tulkarem, Far’a, Ama’ari, Dheisheh, Beit Jibrin and Kalandia camps. In total, 576 metres of storm water pipes and channels were rehabilitated, in addition to over a kilometer of sewer pipes, as well as manholes, box culverts and water pipes.

Support to Community Based Organizations (Gaza Strip only)

Aim: to provide emergency support to Community Based Organisations to ensure the continued provision of essential services and activities

Objectives July - December 2008
To provide emergency financial support through grants to community-based
organizations in Gaza that offer services to vulnerable groups of refugees, including
children and youth, the disabled, elderly and women

Report on activities:

UNRWA’s second annual Summer Games programme began on 21 June 2008 and ran for 10 weeks. The programme catered to around 250,000 children and youth in Gaza in 324 different locations; 48 percent of all participants were girls. As well as working to build internal capacity, UNRWA continued to rely on key local partners with long-standing expertise and community support to deliver programme activities and ensure the sustainability of the programme beyond 2008. Through such support, UNRWA hopes to secure the viability of long-established civil society institutions in Gaza, which provide a stabilizing influence in the midst of political, economic and social turmoil.

Following the completion of the programme, over 2,000 evaluation questionnaires were circulated. Overall, 95 percent of parents stated that their children had benefited, with a similar proportion noting a positive change in behaviour immediately following participation.

A more detailed summary of programme activities is included below:

Community mental health (Gaza only)

Aim: to assist refugee household coping mechanisms by addressing the psycho-social distress caused to refugees by the prevailing violence and economic hardship, with a particular focus on refugee children and youth

Objectives July – December 2008
Gaza: To provide counseling and mental health support to vulnerable
refugees through individual and group counseling and mental health
awareness activities.

Throughout the reporting period, 189 specially-recruited and trained counselors remained active, providing a range of individual and group counseling services to refugees, with a particular focus on children, youth and their families. They sought to mitigate the short and long term psycho-social impacts of prevailing violence, isolation and economic hardship on refugees.

In total, 4,694 benefited from individual counseling through 9,461 sessions, whilst a further 18,722 took part in group counseling sessions and 248,051 in group awareness activities. 4,823 persons received home visits and 1,245 public awareness activities reached 28,011 persons.

Staff of the Community Mental Health Programme in Gaza continued to receive training from supervisors on an individual and group basis.

Children and youth assistance project (West Bank)

Aim: to enhance the well-being of refugee children and youth in the West bank by combating violence, supporting the development of construction coping mechanisms and improving their psycho-educative situation

Objectives July – December 2008

West Bank: To provide counseling and mental health support to children and youth in the West Bank, through individual and group counseling sessions, life-skills workshops, recreational and awareness raising activities and training for UNRWA and CBO staff

The child and youth assistance project seeks to integrate the ongoing community mental health programme with new activities in the domains of education and social services, including training and the development of rights awareness amongst children.

During the reporting period, individual counseling sessions were held for 1,376 refugees, focusing on a range of issues, including mood and anxiety complaints, bedwetting and socio-economic complaints. In addition, 217 group counseling sessions were held for 7,105 persons. A total of 191 referrals for professional care were made. The programme also organized 310 awareness raising activities for 5,800 persons. Topics discussed included child rights, class discipline, family and community relations and adolescence.

Recreational activities, including theatre work and summer camps, were also held for 7,340 children.

Due to lack of funding, no activities were conducted under the ‘life-skills’ component of the programmes.

In total, 64 counsellors were employed at UNRWA schools and a further 21 at Agency clinics, whilst 30 community organizers worked at community based centres in refugee camps. Training was organized for community organizers and clinic counselors during the reporting period, focused on stress management and community organization and education.

Operations Support Officer programme

Aim: to reinforce UNRWA’s education, health and relief social services programme in the context of the continuing crisis in the oPt

Objectives July – December 2008

Both fields: To improve delivery of UNRWA’s humanitarian assistance through regular and systematic monitoring of refugee living conditions, provision of logistical support and facilitation of access to humanitarian aid convoys and development of emergency response mechanisms

To ensure the integrity and neutrality of the Agency’s installations and programmes

To monitor problems affecting the human dignity, physical safety, welfare and protection of Palestine refugees and other persons of concern to UNRWA

Report on activities:

Across the oPt, Operations Support Officer teams continued to monitor changing humanitarian conditions and support efficient and effective service delivery across core UNRWA programmes.

In Gaza, OSOs assisted UNRWA’s departments in ensuring efficient and effective service delivery in the central areas of education, health and relief and social services. They also supported the implementation of Gaza Field Office priority interventions, including Schools of Excellence, Equality in Action, Summer Games and Community Outreach, through on the ground monitoring, beneficiary consultations and follow up on issues identified. Overall, six international staff members, five national staff members and one consultant were active during the reporting period.

In the Gaza Strip OSOs carried out 132 formal inspections of the Agency’s 224 installations. Many of the Agency’s installations were also visited informally during the reporting period.

In the West Bank, OSOs continued to work in the core areas of protection, access and neutrality.

OSOs monitored and documented violations of international humanitarian law against refugees in West Bank camps and, for the most serious violations, in locations outside camps. These included administrative house demolitions affecting refugee families in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Protection activities also focused on the situation of herding communities living in Area C, with OSO teams supporting UNRWA programmes in designing projects to bring services to isolated communities. In addition, OSO teams continued to carry out a vulnerability study on communities in Area C, in close coordination with OCHA. OSOs also provided advice and support to inter-agency activities aimed at mitigating the impact of frost on herding communities in the West Bank.

OSOs continued to report on the situation of refugees affected by the West Bank Barrier and the access of farmers living in the Biddu area to their land across the Barrier’s gates. Programme staff repeatedly raised the issue with the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli Border Police, thus facilitating farmers’ access at gates. These actions were coordinated with the Palestinian District Coordination Office.

Clear recommendations were formulated to the Israeli Authorities in order to improve the current gate management system.

A total of 371 access incidents were recorded and responded to by the OSO programme radio room during the reporting period. OSOs intervened directly with the Israeli Civil Administration and also escorted staff when movement was required into areas subject to intense IDF control.

In the West Bank OSOs conducted 496 formal inspections of UNRWA installations and a larger number of informal inspections.

Emergency capacity

Aims: to strengthen UNRWA’s capacity to manage and deliver emergency operations and services, including improved coordination, monitoring, preparedness and contingency planning

Objectives July – December 2008

Both fields: To reinforce planning, management and monitoring / evaluation of
emergency activities through dedicated capacity at field and HQ level,
in order to ensure that UNRWA is able to efficiently and effectively
respond to increased demand for emergency assistance

To maintain consistent and coordinated planning and implementation
of emergency programmes in the two fields, in accordance with
UNRWA’s programme activities in other areas of UNRWA’s work

Report on activities:

In Gaza, the emergency capacity component of the appeal continued to allow UNRWA to effectively manage a large scale emergency programme by addressing critical staff and non-staff gaps.

The delivery of emergency assistance was enhanced through the development of an integrated emergency programme for the field, the establishment of which was finalized by the end of the reporting period. This programme comprises 242 posts and provides integrated management for food, job creation, cash assistance and the shelter component of the Gaza emergency programme.

In response to the deterioration of the security situation and breakdown in law and order evident in Gaza, provision for enhanced security arrangements was maintained, notably through the employment of close protection personnel to mitigate assessed operational risks.

In the West Bank, capacity components of the appeal covered essential area staff posts in departments supporting the implementation of emergency programme activities, including finance, administration and procurement and logistics. Funding also covered overall administration of emergency appeal activities through an Emergency Appeal Unit. Funding was not available for the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation unit.

Emergency programme support functions were also maintained at UNRWA headquarters. These included continued funding for a project to monitor the impact of the protracted crisis on refugee living conditions. Reports on refugee poverty and employment and overall economic performance can be accessed at:

Obstacles encountered:

Security situation

In Gaza, the period up to 27 December 2008 was characterized by a major reduction in both internal and external violence after Palestinian factions agreed on a temporary ceasefire, or tahdiyeh, with Israel in June 2008. This facilitated increased movement of staff and delivery of operations within Gaza. The situation deteriorated dramatically after the six month tahdiyeh expired and was not renewed, culminating with Israel’s launching of Operation Cast Lead on 27 December 2008, which resulted in major loss of life, displacement and suspension of most Agency operations up to the end of the reporting period.

In the West Bank, IDF military incursions continued across the West Bank, whilst there was a marked increase in settler violence against Palestinians in Area C.

Access restrictions

As noted above, in Gaza access restrictions continued to place major constraints on the delivery of humanitarian assistance and prevented the reactivation of US$ 93 million of infrastructure projects which have been on hold since mid-2007. UNRWA was forced to suspend UNRWA emergency food distributions on two occasions. Fuel supplies were also reduced, prompting widespread blackouts and harming basic service provision. The continued closure of Gaza’s main crossing point at Karni forced UNRWA to use alternative crossing points at Kerem Shalom and Sofa, which functioned with reduced capacity and limited opening hours. Additional costs incurred as a result of closures are estimated at US$ 914,000 during the reporting period, for storage, demurrage, palletization, transportation etc.

In the West Bank, access restrictions also affected movement of staff and delivery of services. In the second half of 2008, UNRWA staff recorded 371 access incidents, in which a total of 5,159 work hours were lost. The vast majority of access restrictions – over 70 percent – occurred at entry points to Jerusalem, where since March 2008 checkpoint authorities have demanded searches of UN vehicles, in contravention on UN privileges and immunities.

UNRWA access to the seam zone remained severely restricted, as a result of Israeli demands for security checks of West Bank ID-holding staff outside vehicles, and demands for searches of UN vehicles. This had a negative impact on the Agency’s ability to provide assistance to vulnerable communities in these areas. In the Ba’arta enclave in the northern West Bank, delivery of UNRWA services has come to a virtual halt due to the lack of consideration by the Government of Israel for UN Privileges and Immunities.

A. UNRWA emergency activities fact sheet, July – December 2008.
B. Spreadsheet: pledges and contributions received, all appeals, as of 31
December 2008.
C. Spreadsheet: expenditure report, 2008 Emergency Appeal; combined
expenditure report, other appeals.


1 See: The Humanitarian Monitor, occupied Palestinian territory, May 2008, November 2008, available at

2 There have been marked increases in absenteeism since mid-2007. According to standard ILO methodology absentee workers are recorded as employed in labour force surveys and assumed to be in receipt of their salaries. UNRWA estimates that up to half absentee workers in Gaza were private sector workers not reporting to work and not receiving their salary.

3 See: The Humanitarian Monitor, occupied Palestinian territory, December 2008, available at

4 Source: OCHA Humanitarian Monitor, November 2008, available at

5 For more details, see:

6 The total number of people hired refers to the number of persons whose JCP contract began during the reporting period, whilst the number of active contracts reflects the total number of persons working on the programme during the reporting period, regardless of the start date of their contract (i.e. contract start date may precede the start of the reporting period).

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