29 November 2012 at 16:00
Nineteen out of 21 UNRWA health centres were operating throughout the hostilities, with 60 to 70 per cent of staff voluntarily reporting to work at the nearest health centre to their homes. Most health centres had an emergency team, with four ambulances on standby across the Gaza Strip, working from 11:00 to 17:00. Four centres sustained minor damage from the air strikes.
Read more: Emergency in Gaza
All 21 health centres became operational again on 22 November. All required medicine and vaccinations are available at the health centres. In addition, USD 400,000 worth of drugs and consumables were provided to the World Health Organization for essential treatment of civilian patients. Currently, staff are dealing with the extra number of patients (up to 55 per cent more than normal) who could not come to the health centres during the period. UNRWA counsellors are conducting group sessions and individual consultations with health staff to ensure they are able to conduct their duties.
Unfortunately the security situation did not allow UNRWA to open its schools, depriving 225,000 children of education for one week. The UNRWA satellite television channel played a very important role in ensuring that students in Grades 4 to 9 received 12 hours of maths, Arabic, and English language lessons per day.
Before welcoming students back to school, all UNRWA schools were thoroughly checked by UN security teams for shrapnel, stray bullets from celebratory gunfire, and any explosive remnants of war. Maintenance crews, together with the local communities, worked into the evening hours to prepare the schools to receive the students.
On Saturday 24 November, 243 of UNRWA’s 245 schools opened, allowing approximately 223,000 Palestine refugee children to resume a normal schedule. Children were excited to return to school, after having missed school and staying indoors at home for more than a week. A number of schools sustained severe damage, which forced the Agency to reorganise in order to integrate students whose classrooms were destroyed into other less-damaged classrooms.
The standard lessons were set aside as teachers and counsellors took their time to welcome students back to school and to provide opportunities for children to cope with the experience of the hostilities. As of Sunday 25 November, all schools have been operating normally.
School counsellors continue to screen the students to identify those suffering from exposure to serious events. More than 2,000 students and their families suffered from some kind of damage to their shelters during the hostilities and almost 6,000 students and their families were displaced to relatives’ homes. Counsellors continue to conduct stress release orientation and training sessions for teachers, as well as home visits and sessions with students and their parents.
Relief and emergency services
On 20 November, Israel Defense Forces dropped warning leaflets in several areas of Gaza prompting displacement among the population. UNRWA opened 14 UNRWA schools which served as emergency shelters (four in the North, nine in Gaza, and one in the Middle Area) accommodating almost 12,000 people. The World Food Programme distributed food (canned fish, date bars, and fresh bread) and UNRWA distributed non-food items (mattresses, blankets, and hygiene kits). With the announcement of the ceasefire, the displaced rapidly began departing shelters to return to their homes.
UNRWA continued to distribute food aid throughout the hostilities to over 120,000 of the more than 800,000 refugees in Gaza that are eligible for food assistance on a quarterly basis. UNRWA assessments show that the food assistance provided to refugees is generally not enough to cover family needs for the three months. The refugees that are scheduled to collect their food commodities have been waiting for three months, and thus were desperate for these supplies.
Sanitation and water
UNRWA provided solid waste collection in the eight refugee camps across Gaza to mitigate any public health concerns. UNRWA sanitation workers collected approximately 250 tonnes of solid waste in the eight refugee camps each day of the hostilities.
All UNRWA water wells continued to operate throughout the hostilities. UNRWA administers a total of 11 water wells inside the refugee camps, providing 20 per cent of the water consumption in the camps with the municipalities providing the remaining water. In Jabalia Camp, the UNRWA water wells are the only source of potable water for the refugees.
Damage to UNRWA installations
Once the ceasefire was declared, UNRWA began assessing its installations to determine the degree of damage sustained during the recent hostilities. Five teams of engineers (15 engineers in total) undertook damage assessments, identifying 61 UNRWA installations that were damaged. Minor damages were identified at 58 installations. Urgent repairs began during the hostilities and continue to be implemented with a matter of urgency in order to ensure that installations continue operations. Three UNRWA schools sustained major damage and repair works will start as soon as the Agency is able to allocate the necessary funds.
Refugee shelter damage
Assessment of damage to refugee shelters started on Sunday 25 November 2012 and is ongoing. Until today, 33 teams of one social worker and one engineer assessed 1,123 refugee shelters to determine assistance needed to provide interim relief following the hostilities. The findings of these assessments show that at least 109 shelters have been damaged beyond repair, 232 shelters have sustained major repairable damage and 782 shelters were found to have minor repairable damage. As a result, UNRWA has distributed more than 1,300 plastic sheets and tarpaulin to families with shelter damage as part of the ongoing intervention.
UNRWA continues to work in collaboration with OCHA and the humanitarian cluster system to assess needs that have arisen from the violence, with UNRWA focusing on the refugee situation. In particular, UNRWA is working with partners to assess the impact of the violence on food security, shelter and non-food items’ needs, and mental health and psychosocial needs.
UNRWA is extremely proud of its staff, who – under such dangerous circumstances – have worked to ensure that services to Palestine refugees continue to be delivered. Their dedication is extraordinary and a true example of humanitarian work.
How you can help
To support UNRWA’s emergency operation in Gaza you can donate online at www.unrwa.org/gaza.
To receive further information on how you or your organisation can help, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gaza: facts and figures