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Source: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
31 March 2003

Report of Emergency Activities
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, January-March 2003

Twentieth Report of UNRWA Emergency Activities
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Covering Agency Emergency Activities,
January-March 2003


March 2003 marked the 30th month of the current crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). In Gaza, the reporting period witnessed some of the most serious clashes of the Intifada with increased Israeli military incursions, the temporary reoccupation of northern Gaza, house demolitions, targeted assassinations and Palestinian rocket attacks. A total of 240 Palestinians were killed and 915 injured in military strikes and incursions throughout the oPt. Two UNRWA teaching staff and 15 refugee students, aged 7-16 years, were among those killed. Military activity in the Gaza Strip led to the destruction of 195 homes, housing 1907 people. In the single week of 20-27 January, the IDF demolished 79 buildings in the West Bank. The Israeli navy imposed a ban on fishing off Gaza's coast during January, lifting the ban for only six nautical miles in the following months. Curfews were in force in 35 locations in the West Bank in February. Approximately 586,000 West Bank residents (25% of the total population) were confined to their homes at various times between January and March.

Of growing concern to UNRWA is Israel's construction of a wall between the West Bank and Israel and the potential effects it will have on refugees living in its path. When complete, the “security wall” will be eight metres high, 350 kilometres long and will require clearance of a swath of land averaging 70 meters wide for the length of the wall. It appears increasingly likely that the Nour Shams and Tulkaram refugee camps, along with the town of Tulkaram itself will fall between the wall to the west and a trench barrier to the east. In this area, the wall will follow a 9,845-metre-long route with a width of 24 metres. Some 12 villages stand to lose land to the construction. Approximately 236 dunams' of land will be lost in the vicinity of Tulkaram alone.

Many of the activities detailed in this report were made possible through residual funding provided under UNRWA'S 2002 Appeals and received late in the year. However the Agency's continued implementation of emergency activities is being jeopardised by inadequate financial support to date for its January-June 2003 Emergency Appeal. As of March 31, only 40.6% of the funds required under the Appeal had been pledged. UNRWA's Commissioner General Peter Hansen issued a statement on 10 February to the press: "Our emergency funding for the year may be threatened because donors are holding back to see what is needed in Iraq.”

Food aid is the most urgent priority and requires the most substantial allotment of funds received. Allotment of funds to other programmes has thus suffered. By the end of March, the agency was unable to allot funds from the 2003 Emergency Appeal for shelter repair and reconstruction in either the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Without these funds, hundreds of destroyed homes will not be rebuilt. Additionally, by the end of March, no funds had been allotted for emergency health services in the West Bank at a time when UNRWA's low cost health services are increasingly in demand from Palestinians who are unable to pay for private healthcare.

Emergency Employment Creation

UNRWA's programmes to create temporary job opportunities are key to addressing the problem of widespread unemployment and deepening poverty in the oPt. They stimulate the depressed economy while enabling UNRWA to improve the quality of its services and living conditions in the refugee camps. These programmes include the direct hire of employees on short-term contracts or the implementation of construction, maintenance and infrastructure projects via private sector contracts and community-based work.

i. Direct hire

Direct hire activities are an important source of family income and poverty alleviation during the continuing economic crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories. Direct hire includes a range of professional and support posts throughout UNRWA installations: for instance, teachers in schools, medical staff in health centres, and administrative and support staff in field offices and headquarters.

Between January and March, UNRWA hired a total of 5,555 people; 1,616 in the West Bank and 3,939 in the Gaza Strip. These people were hired for a total of 388,927 job days, almost three-quarters of them in the Gaza Strip where poverty is wider and deeper than in the West Bank. Since the beginning of UNRWA's emergency activities, the Agency has provided 2,850,000 job days.

UNRWA has hired 36,491 people since the beginning of the Emergency Appeals in 2000, supporting 250,000 dependants.

Contracts typically run for three months, while contracts with professionals, including teachers, doctors, engineers and others, are often offered longer assignments. In Gaza, as a result of direct hire activities between January and March, 30,250 dependants were supported, while in the West Bank 8,985 dependants received support through employees hired by UNRWA. Teachers, sanitation labourers, guards and administrative staff comprised the largest number of direct-hire staff through emergency employment.

ii. Indirect Hire

UNRWA provides thousands of job opportunities through indirect contract hire projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Indirect hire activities include a range of emergency projects that provide vital family income to both skilled and unskilled labourers. Projects include construction, infrastructure and maintenance in UNRWA refugee camps.

UNRWA is implementing a number of important indirect hire construction projects for schooling in Gaza and the West Bank. Current schooling conditions are crowded with two shifts per day and multiple students per desk. In Gaza, four new schools were under construction between January and March in Bureij Camp, Qarrara village, Jabaliya Camp, and the town of Beit Lahya. Thirty-eight additional classrooms in Gaza were also under construction during the reporting period, of which 13 were completed.

There were 16 construction projects underway in the West Bank at the beginning of 2003 of which three were completed during the reporting period. These included a distribution centre in the Aqabet Jabr Camp and additional classrooms in Ein al-Sultan Camp and Ramallah Men's Training Centre.

A total of 26,379 job days were generated as a result of UNRWA's construction projects, 15,073 days in the Gaza Strip and 11,306 in the West Bank.

Since the first Flash Emergency Appeal in 2000, UNRWA has generated 419,965 job days through indirect hire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

As a form of indirect hire, the West Bank field worked on 18 maintenance projects between January and March. The projects generated 3,879 job opportunity days, 1,199 for skilled workers and 2,698 for unskilled workers. Types of maintenance include school repairs, office maintenance, and healthcare centre upkeep. Ten of the projects underway at the beginning of the reporting period were completed and eight are ongoing.

Both Gaza and West Bank fields have a number of useful infrastructure projects aimed specifically at job creation. These include the building of roads, sidewalks, retaining walls and sewers. There were 21,844 job days created during the reporting period in infrastructure projects, 7,161 in the Gaza Strip and 14,683 in the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, four projects are being undertaken, three in Jabaliya Camp and one in Beach Camp. The Beach Camp road-paving project, begun in August 2002, is 94% completed. In the West Bank, 49,276 m2 of paths were paved with concrete, 4,924 meters of drains were laid and 2,958 m2 of retaining walls were built.

Emergency Food Aid

UNRWA has the largest food aid program in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Agency supplies staple commodities that contribute to needy families' food security. While having the same overall objective, this programme is implemented differently in Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza, food is distributed approximately every 45 days depending on access restrictions and availability of stocks. In the West Bank, food is distributed through distribution centres that provide parcels throughout the month. This variation in approach is a result of geographical and demographic differences between the two fields, as well as the different tactics being used by the Israeli army in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

UNRWA has the largest food aid program in the territories. The Agency has provided 2,483,410 food parcels since the beginning of emergency operations. This continues to sustain over 1.1 million Palestinians in need.

A total of 308,720 food parcels were delivered in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the reporting period. These food parcels benefited 198,021 families with 18,368 tons of food. Delivery in many cases faced serious difficulties as a result of military closure and curfews. For instance, in the Gaza Strip, no food was delivered to Al-Mawasi or Dugit during the reporting period as a result of Israeli denials of entry.1 Schedules were disrupted and food deliveries were delayed in the West Bank on 25 days during the reporting period due to curfews, and closure in the town of Beit Jala, Al Am'ari and Jenin refugee camps. Stringent checking of shipping containers by the Israeli authorities also delayed food distribution.

UNRWA provides extra support to families in crisis, especially those who have lost their homes due to military demolition or natural disasters. In Gaza, 345 parcels of food were distributed to families whose homes were destroyed, while in the West Bank, 540 additional parcels of tinned goods were provided to these families in need. A total of 541 additional personnel were contracted for varying periods in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the purpose of food packing and distribution.

Emergency Relief and Social Assistance

a. Cash and In-Kind Assistance

Based on humanitarian principles, selective cash assistance on a small scale is provided to those households in extreme crisis, for example as a result of the death or serious injury of a principal breadwinner or the destruction of housing. Grants enable families to buy basic items such as food or meet urgent utility or school expenses.

UNRWA's cash assistance program benefited 4,854 families comprising 28,356 individuals between January and March. A majority of these grants were given to households that have not had any source of income for many months. Cash assistance was also provided to families without a breadwinner and those requiring relocation due to home demolition.

In-kind assistance is provided for families suffering from the loss of their home or forced relocation. UNRWA provided 251 tents, 2,872 blankets, 2,058 mattresses, 680 mats, 430 kitchen kits, and 695 sets of clothing between January and March for this purpose.

b. Post-Injury Physical and Social Needs Assistance

UNRWA provides for post-injury physical and social needs for injured Palestinians. This takes the form of physiotherapy and staff visits, as well as the provision of prosthetics and home adaptations for the disabled. UNRWA saw 1,028 disabled people between January and March, either through scheduled visits in UNRWA clinics or through visits by UNRWA staff to locations in the Gaza Strip or West Bank. The agency provided 79 prosthetic devises to assist 67 disabled people during the reporting period. Devices provided included wheel chairs, hearing aids, splints and braces, artificial limbs and medical beds. Occupational therapists trained beneficiaries in the proper use of the aids they obtained. In addition, UNRWA provided longer-term assistance to the disabled including speech therapy courses, intensive physiotherapy, special education and vocational education.

Emergency Shelter-Repair and Reconstruction

Military incursions, shelling, and armed confrontations have damaged or destroyed hundreds of refugee houses in the oPt. Major military activities in Southern Gaza have led to the destruction of 144 homes. Forty-eight additional homes in Middle and Northern Gaza were destroyed. In the West Bank, a total of 71 houses require rebuilding; 18 houses in Balata Camp, 15 in Beit Jala, 12 in Askar Camp and 26 additional houses in isolated regions around the West Bank.

UNRWA undertook 934 shelter repairs between January and March, 452 in the Gaza Strip and 482 in the West Bank. Repair work in the Gaza Strip is contracted to local construction companies, while in the West Bank, families applying for repair grants usually undertake their own repair work. Repair funds assisted 989 families comprising 5,797 individuals, 2,390 in the West Bank and 3,407 in the Gaza Strip.2

Work continued between January and March on re-housing in the Gaza Strip. Re-housing in the West Bank is confined to the Jenin refugee camp (see section below). The Rafah Refugee Camp Re-Housing Project in Southern Gaza was well underway. Ninety-seven new homes were handed over to the beneficiaries during the reporting period. Two homes were also completed in the Daraj Quarter in Gaza City. Adjacent infrastructure, developed as a part of re-housing included the paving of 29,580 m 2 of roads and sidewalks, 110m of drainage work, 2,130m of water pipes, 350m of sewage lines and 125 septic tanks. There are a further 160 houses currently at different stages of completion in Khan Younis, Dier Al Balah, the Middle Camps and Northern Gaza.

Ninety-nine dwelling units were completed in the Gaza Strip between January and March.

UNRWA spent $8.6 million on home repairs and re-housing through funds made available under the 2002 Appeals. However, as of the end of March, there were no new funds available to continue this work.

Emergency Health Services

UNRWA hires supplementary medical staff and purchases additional medical supplies as a result of increasing crisis-related health needs in the oPt.3 During the reporting period, 298 supplementary staff were hired, 117 in the Gaza Strip and 181 in the West Bank. These staff included physicians, midwives, nurses, pharmacists, and support medical staff serving rising numbers of injured Palestinians in the oPt. Medical items that were procured included antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs, dressings and first aid supplies. At the time of drafting this report, most supplies are sufficient only until the end of May.

At the beginning of 2003, three contracts for hospitalisation in the West Bank went into effect to provide services to refugees unable to reach hospitals. UNRWA assisted patients by covering the cost of services in internal medicine, orthopaedics, urology, ENT, and obstetrics and gynaecology at Al-Razi Hospital in Jenin. In Al-Bireh, outside Ramallah, the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital is providing general and internal medical services. The Specialist Hospital in Nablus is providing cardiac care. Between January and March, UNRWA assisted 685 patients who could not afford to pay the portion of the cost of their hospital care normally assigned to them, and others who were prescribed lengthy stays in hospital, including infants born prematurely and the chronically ill.

Due to closures and curfews in the West Bank, three UNRWA mobile health clinics provided medical services, two in the Nablus area and one around Hebron.4 These clinics focus on providing services to Palestine refugees while also treating other area residents in need of medical services. A total of 6,661 patients were treated for acute illnesses and chronic ailments such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary disease by the Agency mobile clinics. Several villages were inaccessible to the current mobile clinics, as they can be accessed only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. UNRWA is currently procuring such vehicles to expand its medical access.

Environmental health continues to be a serious concern in the oPt as a result of access problems and damage to sewer and water lines during military incursions. Owing to closures and curfews, UNRWA sanitation trucks were unable to complete their rounds in many areas of the West Bank. For example, the waste disposal truck that used to take refuse from the Shu'fat refugee camp served the Jalazone, Kalandia and Am'ari camps, as well, and disposed of its loads at a dumpsite in Ramallah. With entry and exit from Jerusalem so difficult, the truck has had to take a circuitous route through several villages and cross at least four checkpoints, adding 60 kilometres to its route. As a result of these difficulties the agency contracted five private companies to assist in waste disposal. In the first quarter of 2003, contracted sanitation trucks in the West Bank hauled and disposed of 220 truckloads of solid wastes from the six camps. In Gaza, 1,140 labourers, supervisors, and blacksmiths were employed in two shifts for various activities including site sanitation, mosquito control, tree planting and maintenance of tools and facilities.

UNRWA's emergency psychological counselling continued during the reporting period. In the Gaza Strip, there were 2,914 group guidance and counselling sessions serving over 56,000 beneficiaries during the reporting period. In the West Bank, as a part of the programme, 18 stress management workshops were conducted for UNRWA personnel, including 110 staff members in the Field Education Programme Department, 108 in the Field Health Programme Department and 186 from the Field Relief and Social Services Programme Department.


The crisis in the oPt has resulted in considerable disruption to education at all levels, with students and teachers often unable to attend school because of closures and curfews. For instance, in the West Bank 30 of UNRWA’s 95 schools were closed for a total of 138 days, and 3,114 absences were recorded among teachers during January. During the reporting period, only eight out of 95 UNRWA schools in the West Bank were not disrupted. In addition to suffering academically, students have also witnessed events that have led to severe psychological trauma. UNRWA provides remedial classes, extra-curricular and self-learning activities in an attempt to counter the negative impact of their experiences.

A total of 156 remedial education teachers in Arabic and mathematics were recruited and given assignments in 81 schools. Remedial learning materials were produced and distributed for use in grades one through seven. At the end of the reporting period, there were 11,466 students enrolled in remedial classes, 19 percent of the 60,003 students in UNRWA’s schools in the West Bank. Similar work, which began in the Gaza Strip at the end of March, is slated to target 38,220 students.

UNRWA provides educational psychosocial support as a part of emergency programming. There were 4,293 group-counselling sessions, 5,986 individual-counselling sessions, 160 workshops and 105 parent meetings held between January and March. In the Gaza Strip, workshops for teachers were held on coping with trauma, and child socialisation. A specialised case study on trauma, lack of motivation and violence was also held. In the West Bank, workshops covered topics including psychological interventions at times of crisis, debriefing techniques, communication skills, report writing and case study techniques.

Other educational activities included short-term vocational training courses, courses in emergency preparedness and extracurricular activities. Three vocational courses were provided in the West Bank in computer skills and graphic design. Gaza field did not begin its emergency preparedness programme due to lack of funding. In the West Bank, various Medical Relief Committees gave training in first aid to two staff members in each of 38 schools around Nablus, Jerusalem and Hebron. As part of its psychological counselling programme, and with the assistance of NGOs, UNRWA offered extra-curricular programmes in drama, drawing, music and dance, sports and creative writing to 4,122 pupils.

Jenin Rehabilitation Project

By the end of February 2003, financial assistance had gone to a total of 3,134 families in Jenin Camp to repair minor damages to their homes that resulted from Israel’s military assault on the refugee camp in April 2002. Another 419 families who needed to make major repairs to their dwellings were likewise assisted. The Red Crescent Authority of the United Arab Emirates has stipulated that UNRWA should limit assistance to households whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the April 2002 assault. Thirty dwellings have been damaged or destroyed since. As of February 2003, damages were assessed at $914,000, and repairs will have to be covered from other contributions to UNRWA’s emergency programmes. Repairs have begun on 613 dwellings that suffered minor damage and 21 others that require major repair.

The agency removed 15,500m3 of additional rubble from building debris caused by Israeli military activity in early March 2003. A 14,203m2 plot of land adjacent to the camp was identified and surveyed by the Agency following the donor's agreement to its purchase. Approximately, 11,000m2 will be required for replacement housing which could not be rebuilt on "Ground Zero," the nickname given to the destroyed old centre of the camp. The remainder of the plot will be designated for the construction of communal facilities, including new elementary and preparatory schools.

A project manager funded by the UK returned to Jenin on 18 February, following the shooting death of his predecessor at the camp last November. WHO provided a consultant engineer to assess the condition of the infrastructure in the camp and to prepare cost estimates and a feasibility study for work needed to ensure well-functioning water supply and drainage systems. By the end of March approximately 80% of the water and wastewater networks had been surveyed. The data collected in this fieldwork are now being used for a hydraulic analysis.

UNRWA held a meeting with the various committees representing the community on 4 February to discuss and agree upon the conceptual plan for reconstruction, the criteria for assistance and a proposed reconstruction schedule. The community representatives agreed with the proposal that the height of the reconstructed houses should be limited to two storeys. A preliminary conceptual plan was discussed with representatives of the camp residents on 24 March 2003.

UNRWA’s standard housing norms will be used in calculating the size of the reconstructed units. In determining the scope of assistance to each family, a number of factors will be taken into consideration, including family size and the size and condition of the family’s original home. Families will be entitled to up to 85 percent of their original dwelling reconstructed. UNRWA will implement this work on a contractual basis. Families will be given financial assistance to carry out any additional construction on a self-help basis.

Monitoring and Reporting

Operations Support Officers (OSOs) focused on facilitating the transfer of food, medicines and other forms of humanitarian aid to different areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A secondary aim of the OSO programme is to monitor UNRWA privileges and immunities regarding installations, staff and vehicles. The OSOs also carry out studies on economic, social and legal issues of concern to the Agency. Four international OSOs were in operation in the Gaza Strip and nine international OSOs worked in the West Bank during the reporting period. These staff members are supported directly by a number of Palestinian staff and additional Agency operations support.

International Operations Support Officers (OSOs) facilitate and monitor emergency work in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

The OSOs visit refugee camps daily and monitor developments and rapid changes in the humanitarian situation. This work assists in the identification of needs and adjustments in UNRWA services. For instance, in the Gaza Strip, OSOs monitor the situations of Dugit and Al Mawazi where food distribution has been unable to proceed due to closure. The regular presence of international staff members throughout the oPt is positively received by residents. Additionally, the presence of the Operations Support Officers at checkpoints enhanced the movement of Palestinian staff members.

UNRWA is taking part in a new food security assessment being conducted by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The assessment will include a multifaceted approach to the question of Palestinian food security including analysis of needs from varying perspectives and an assessment of aid responses given needs. A total of 34 UNRWA social workers and nutritionists, 21 in the Gaza Strip and 13 in the West Bank, took part in workshops on data collection between 19 and 22 March for the purpose of the assessment. These UNRWA staff members are working alongside four WFP food monitors and four FAO food monitors.

Obstacles Encountered

Tensions ran high in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the first quarter of 2003 due to continuing high levels of violence. Israeli military restrictions on movement, including curfews, continued to disrupt UNRWA’s operations.

In the Gaza Strip, restricted and irregular opening hours at the Abu Houli-Gush Katif checkpoint between the north and the south resulted in considerable delays for staff members and UNRWA school students. Israeli authorities barred passage of all local Agency vehicles through the checkpoint unless the vehicles were carrying at least three passengers. In addition, for those international staff crossing the Eretz checkpoint into Israel, difficulties arose on some occasions for cars without a minimum of two passengers. This has seriously impeded the mobility of Agency national and international staff, and thus the effectiveness of their work.

Movement restrictions also continue to hamper other emergency services. There were 1,045 recorded absences among healthcare workers between January and March in the West Bank due to closures and curfews. Restrictions on the entry of construction materials including cement, gravel, asphalt and iron bars forced the delay of several emergency projects. Closure of the main road to the Gaza landfill continued to deprive some areas of Gaza of regular solid waste removal services.

For those obstacles that UNRWA was unable to overcome, it recorded protests with the appropriate Israeli authorities.

I. UNRWA Emergency Activities Fact Sheet
II. Spreadsheets: pledges and contributions received, all appeals, as of 31 March.
III. Spreadsheets: expenditure report, 2003 Emergency Appeal; Combined expenditure report, earlier appeals.


1 No food distribution has been possible in Al-Mawasi and Dugit for the past 12 months.

2 Please note that figures in this section do not include repairs undertaken in Jenin Camp. See the specified section for Jenin below.

3 It should be noted that services have expanded in response to an increase in demand for UNRWA services resulting from increasing inability of many Palestinians to pay for private medical care.

4 Mobile clinics made rounds of nine villages in the vicinity of Nablus: Jit, Al-Lubban, Beit Furik, Nassariya, Zubeidat, Deir Ballut, Deir al-Hatab, Ijnisiriya and Asira al-Qibliya. In the region around Hebron, the mobile clinics provided treatment to residents of the villages of Jala, Al-Burj, Al-Jab c a, Arba ar-Rashayda, Al-Majd, Deir Samit, Kisin and Marah Rabah.

UNRWA Gaza Headquarters, Department of External Relations
Telephone: + 972 8 677 7720 Fax: + 972 8 677 7698
email: website:

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