22 April 2016
• In light of the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting for development assistance to the Palestinian people, on 19 April in Brussels, Belgium, the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) published a report to the AHLC. The AHLC is a 15-member committee that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. It is chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the US and the EU; the UN participated together with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The AHLC seeks to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel. United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Robert Piper, will attend the meeting. In the report, UNSCO focuses particularly on the ongoing internal displacement, the energy and water crisis, as well as high unemployment rates in Gaza. While 75,000 persons remain internally displaced since the ceasefire to the 2014 conflict and are waiting for the rehabilitation of their homes, the report also states that progress has been made on the reconstruction of Gaza. More than 90 per cent of health and education facilities damaged or destroyed during the conflict in 2014 have been repaired, according to UNSCO, and repair of the water infrastructure and housing repairs has seen progress. However, the report also raises awareness on the fact that the reconstruction of houses that have been rendered uninhabitable during the 2014 conflict has been slower due to structural barriers as well as funding shortfalls. The report further states that high unemployment rates and a lack of a political horizon risk fuelling radicalization of youth and creating an even more unstable situation. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is exacerbated by chronic shortages of water and energy as the UN has warned in 2012 in its Gaza 2020 report. “Gaza’s coastal aquifer will become saline this year and contamination has rendered Gaza’s groundwater unusable,” the UNSCO report states. Gaza’s water and energy crises are interrelated; until natural gas can be delivered to Gaza’s power plant, additional energy needs to be imported from Israel, the report goes on to say. There is also a need for an immediate, substantial increase of fresh water supply from Israel, until long term solutions, such as the full construction and operation of desalination plants, can be implemented, the report urges.
• To gain a first-hand overview of the impact of German funding on the UNRWA shelter self-help repair and reconstruction programme, on 14 April a delegation from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) visited the Gaza Strip. The delegation was briefed on the self-help shelter repair and reconstruction programme by Mr. Muin Muqat, the Acting Deputy Chief Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme – Design and Urban Planning, and visited a family in Shujjaiya in eastern Gaza city who had reconstructed their totally destroyed home with support from UNRWA using funds received from BMZ through KfW. On the same day, the delegation met with Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. David de Bold, in Jerusalem for a broader discussion on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the UNRWA response.
• To express support for the work of the America-MidEast Educational Training Services (AMIDEAST) language school in Gaza, and to congratulate successful students, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, participated in the graduation ceremony for 200 ‘access students’ on 14 April in Gaza city. All were high-achieving students from UNRWA schools and had successfully passed the AMIDEAST Access Programme. The Access Programme is not only about English language skills, but also about being introduced to other cultures and appreciating and fostering community engagement’s values of peace and tolerance. In his remarks during the ceremony, Mr. Schack mentioned that for years, Gaza students have been deprived of many of the rights that their peers in other countries across the world enjoy, yet still their resilience and determination to cope and hope for the better has been the spark that has motivated young boys and girls to work hard and get results. In addition to the UNRWA Director, Ambassador Theodore H. Kattouf, the President of AMIDEAST, and the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem Mr. Donald A. Blome spoke at the event, via video conference. The graduation ceremony included a theatre segment, musical shows and a Palestinian dabka dance performance. AMIDEAST is committed to strengthening Palestinian human resources and institutions through expanded education and training services, technical assistance, and scholarship and grant programmes.
• As part of his regular outreach activities to the Gaza community, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, engaged with UNRWA front line staff and community groups in the Gaza Middle Area during the reporting week. Accompanied by the Chief of the Middle Area, Mr. Mohammed Reyati and his Deputy Mr. Sami Salhi, the Director paid a visit to the Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) office in Nuseirat camp to receive a briefing from RSSP staff on the new UNRWA food baskets which were for the first time distributed in the second annual food distribution round that began on 10 April and will run until June. Mr. Schack also visited nearby Deir El Balah to learn more about the Deir El Balah Camp Improvement Project (DEBCIP) through a briefing by the UNRWA DEBCIP team. The camp improvement project had been announced in a town hall meeting in Deir El Balah in April 2015, and 80 per cent of the first phase – the participatory planning phase – is now complete. The outcome of phase one will be a final urban master plan, and action plan and a report. The Director continued his field visit in the UNRWA-supported Deir El Balah Rehabilitation Centre to learn more about the activities implemented there, such as education services for deaf students, physiotherapy for persons with disabilities, audio diagnosis services, and a radio station and bakery operated by persons with disabilities. The Director also visited Palestine University located in Al Zahra city, where he met with the board of directors and the president of the university, as well as visiting the law school and law clinic. Mr. Schack also engaged with youth during the visit, through attending an open discussion session with university students.
• Child Protection is central to the service provision of UNRWA in the areas of health, education, and relief and social services, with more than 30,000 staff Agency-wide, approximately 12,500 of whom are employed through Gaza Field Office. In April, the Agency finalised its first child protection framework, building on ongoing UNRWA work. UNRWA defines child protection as “preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect against Palestine refugee children, and encouraging their well-being and development.” This builds upon the Agency’s ‘duty of care’ to ensure that it does not, through its own actions, cause harm to children (also known as safeguarding children). The Agency has direct contact with more than 2.5 million children across its five fields of operation, including Gaza. This is a remarkable breadth of work with nurses, doctors, teachers, principals, social workers, and others who enrich the lives of Palestine refugee children, and have contact with children and their families on a daily basis. The Agency recognizes the need to provide child-sensitive service and programme delivery. The Child Protection Framework reaffirms the Agency’s commitment to child protection and lays out the Agency’s approach. It applies to all UNRWA staff. The roll out of the Framework is a priority for 2016. Each field office will develop specific action plans to implement the Framework. For more information, please consult the attached child protection framework (currently available only in English).
• On 13 April, the office of Prime Minister Hamdallah organized a donor meeting in Ramallah to look at the progress made in rebuilding the Gaza Strip after the massive destruction during the conflict in summer 2014. A video produced by the National Office for the Reconstruction of Gaza with the support of the UN in advance of the conference, showing life in Gaza today, and during and in the aftermath of the 2014 conflict, including the recovery and reconstruction process, can be viewed here. In his remarks, the Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, urged the international community to work together to address water, electricity and housing needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza, and to provide economic opportunities. Together with Palestinian Prime Minister, Mr. Rami Hamdallah, he also called on donors to “close the financial gap.” At the Cairo Conference on reconstructing Gaza, held in October 2014 following the conflict during the same year, donor state pledges amounted to US$ 5 billion for the occupied Palestinian territory, of which US$ 3.5 billion was intended to support Gaza; however, according to the World Bank’s stocktaking exercise to assess the disbursement progress of funding pledged at the Cairo Conference, only approximately 40 per cent of these pledges have materialised and been disbursed.
• Shelter update:
• UNRWA was able to disburse over US$ 4.65 million in funding available for second or third payments for reconstruction (US$ 1.35 million) and severe repair works (US$ 3.3 million). The funds will reach a total of 710 refugee families across the Gaza Strip. The families were able to access this assistance through local banks this week.
Overview of assistance disbursed (as of 14 April)
• 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.
• Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 172.9 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the 2014 summer conflict.
• UNRWA has completed the payments to over 66,440 Palestine refugee families – more than half of the caseload – for minor repair works, to 2,475 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, to 13 families for major repair works and to 91 families for reconstruction of their totally destroyed shelters. Payment transfers for almost 12,200 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for 740 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters are ongoing.
• 13,250 families have received a rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014. Disbursement of subsequent instalments entailed further eligibility checks through which over 9,900 families have received the relevant rental subsidy payments during the period from January to December 2015.
Funding gaps and needs
• Due to lack of funding, as of 14 April 2016, over 60,770 refugee families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 68.7 million). Further, 3,192 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 28.7 million), 1,157 families have not received payments to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes (total estimate costs: US$ 10.4 million). Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of approximately 46,000 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
• As of today, 6,569 families have not received funding to reconstruct their totally destroyed homes. UNRWA has secured funding to reconstruct approx. 2,000 totally destroyed shelters. However, funding is currently not the biggest barrier to reconstruct homes, rather it is complex documentation requirements related to proving title to land, building permits and 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.
• Due to lack of sufficient funding also approximately 8,000 refugee families displaced by the 2014 conflict have not received transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) 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.
Operational environment: During the reporting week, protests and demonstrations took place across Gaza, predominately in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day commemorated on 17 April. Other demonstrations were held regarding the ongoing electricity shortages, in support of reconciliation between different Palestinian factions, and in support of developments at Al Aqsa Mosque and in the West Bank (see Summary of Major Incidents).
On 13 April a policeman was shot when reportedly his colleague accidently discharged his weapon in Khan Younis, southern Gaza; the police launched an investigation.
On 14, 16 and 17 April, members of one family reportedly held protests and closed the headquarters office of Jawwal company in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. The protests were allegedly held because the company refused to provide the family with detailed data on one of their relatives who was reportedly kidnapped five days earlier. The police reportedly intervened and re-opened the headquarters office.
On 15 April, a 20-year old male was found dead in Rafah, southern Gaza, reportedly due to a bullet in his head. The police opened an investigation.
On 15 April, during a rally organized by the Fatah movement in Bureij camp, central Gaza, to mark the 28th anniversary of the assassination of Fatah leader Khalil Al Wazir, an internal dispute allegedly erupted between supporters of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and supporters of Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan. Chairs and batons were reportedly used. No injuries were reported.
On 16 April an Explosive Device exploded during a military training exercise in eastern Gaza city; two militants were reportedly injured.
On 17 April, a Palestinian male reportedly attempted to commit suicide by burning himself in southern Gaza; he sustained moderate burns. The police opened an investigation.
On 18 April, a 37-year old man was reportedly found dead in southern Gaza. Following the incident, dozens of persons from his family reportedly gathered in the streets of Khan Younis, burning tires and closing commercial shops by force as a form of protest against the killing.
On 18 April, a homemade bomb reportedly detonated in Gaza area; one woman was reported as injured.
On 18 April, Egyptian security forces reportedly pumped water into tunnels under the border between Egypt and Gaza. The Palestinian Rescue Crew reportedly rescued seven Palestinian workers who were trapped in the tunnels.
“IF YOU HAVE A DREAM, DON’T BE AFRAID TO FOLLOW IT”: 15-YEAR OLD MARATHON RUNNER CHALLENGES STEREOTYPES IN GAZA
15-year old Palestine refugee Inas Nofal, from Al Maghazi camp in central Gaza, dreams about becoming a famous marathon runner. For more than nine months she has trained every day for four hours, together with her sports teacher Sami Natil, in an empty lot located inside the camp.
“Girls can be talented sports people, and they are able to compete,” Inas said. “Gaza is not only about conflict and damage, we can also be successful. I do sports because I want to be healthy, and because as a girl I want to prove that I can.”
Inas for the first time participated in a marathon in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza in November 2015, where she won the first prize. After this success, she was even more motivated and increased her training, particularly because she wanted to run the fourth annual Palestine marathon held in Bethlehem in the West Bank, in early April 2015. Yet Inas, along with many other Palestinians from Gaza who dreamt of participating, did not receive a permit from the Israeli authorities to exit the Gaza Strip for the event.
“I was so excited when I got the invitation for the Palestine marathon, and when I didn’t get the permit, I felt disappointment,” Inas said.
The blockade on Gaza, which enters its tenth year in June 2016, imposes severe restrictions on the movements of goods and people to and from the Strip. It is not the only obstacle Inas has faced, however. Due to conservative values and gender stereotypes prevailing in Gaza, Inas felt a large part of the community did not agree to a girl publicly engaging in physical activities when she commenced her running. Over time, she feels that this has changed for her, and people have become used to her activities. These days, she is even regularly joined by 15 other girls who also wish to participate in marathons.
“Changing thoughts and prejudices is not something very easy in Gaza, but it is not impossible,” the teenager commented. Inas has the full support of her family, who often accompany her to training sessions to watch and support her.
“I support my daughter as she has the right to practice sport the same as anyone else, and also it is good for her health,” Mohammed Nofal, Inas’s father, explained.
Inas remembers her first training session, when she wasn’t even able to run for longer than half a minute, as she explained, laughing. Today, she easily runs 10 kilometres and she is now preparing to participate in many more marathons all over the world.
“If you have a dream, don’t be afraid to follow it,” is Inas’s message to other girls in Gaza with big dreams and high expectations.
UNRWA supports physical activities for girls through its regular sports education in its schools, and through special projects such as the social and educational Real Madrid sports project which aims at enhancing refugee children’s sports skills and team spirit, and providing them with a safe space for recreational activities. It is implemented in 15 of 257 UNRWA schools across Gaza, targeting 580 female and male students. Eight of the 15 schools are girls’ schools.
UNRWA also provides physical health facilities for women and girls in Gaza through its Social and Recreational Spaces (SRS) project, implemented by the UNRWA Gender Initiative (GI). In total, the GI supports SRS activities in 27 community-based organizations (CBOs) across the Gaza Strip, including Arabic and English literacy classes, arts and drama workshops, book clubs, and physical health activities for psychosocial purposes.
While sports and recreational activities are no panacea for the eradication of poverty, hunger, child mortality or disease, the United Nations recognizes them as powerful tools in the advancement of development and peace objectives. By providing women with such spaces, opportunities and programmes, UNRWA effectively empowers women to take on a more self-confident and proactive role in the community.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 15 April, one shell was reportedly fired towards Gaza from the Egyptian side; it landed in an open area south of Rafah city, in southern Gaza. No injuries were reported.
On 11 April, Israeli forces reportedly opened fire towards Palestinian areas east of Gaza city; a 12-year old boy was reported as injured.
On 12 April, four Israeli bulldozers and two tanks reportedly entered approximately 200 metres into central Gaza, reportedly to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. As well, four Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. On the same day, four Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered 100 metres into Rafah area, also in southern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation, withdrawing on the same day.
On 14 April, two Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into Khan Younis area, southern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. As well, two Israeli bulldozers and one tank reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into Rafah area, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation, withdrawing on the same day.
On 14 April, Palestinian militants reportedly fired two rockets from east of Gaza city towards Israel; both rockets dropped short and landed near the perimeter fence in Gaza areas. No injuries or damage were reported.
On 15 April, Palestinian militants reportedly attempted to fire one rocket from Gaza city towards Israel; the rocket exploded at the launching site. No injuries were reported.
On 16 April, one Israeli bulldozer and two tanks reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into southern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
On 17 April, Palestinian militants reportedly fired one test rocket from southern Gaza towards the sea. No injuries or damage were reported.
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 a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 81 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
Following the 2014 conflict, US$ 247 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which an estimated US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 473 million. UNRWA urgently appeals to donors to generously contribute to its emergency shelter programme to provide displaced Palestine refugees in Gaza with rental subsidies or cash assistance to undertake repair works and reconstruction of their damaged homes.
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.
Read more in the 2016 oPt emergency appeal
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 remained closed during the reporting week.
• Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. It was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 12 to 14 April and from 17 to 19 April. On 15 April it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 16 April.
• 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 open from 7 to 14 and from 17 to 19 April. It was closed 15 and 16 April.