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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
14 December 2013




This report is produced by OCHA oPt in collaboration with humanitarian partners.








A winter storm, among the strongest recorded in recent decades, hit the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) on 11 December. It has been characterized by strong winds, heavy rains, low temperatures and, in some areas, heavy snowfall, and has generated humanitarian needs in multiple locations. The storm is exacerbating the already poor humanitarian situation for large segments of the population, particularly those living in the Gaza Strip and in herding communities located across Area C of the West Bank.

In the Gaza Strip, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated in recent months due to an acute fuel and energy crisis, and the long standing restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip. The fuel and energy crisis has included the shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) on 1 November, triggering increased power outages, from 12, to 16 hours, a day. The situation was worsened due to damage sustained by electricity feeder lines from Egypt and Israel on 12 December. Although the lines were repaired by the end of 13 December, the storm has continued to result in damage to the electricity distribution network. The most essential services have been supplied with emergency fuel to operate back-up generators. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah announced the purchase of 450,000 litres of industrial fuel, designated for the GPP, through a USD 10 million donation from Qatar. The donated fuel is slated for entry to Gaza on 15 December through the Kerem Shalom crossing, and eventually, will allow for the partial resumption of operations at the GPP. The Israeli authorities have also announced an extension of the operating hours of the crossing to 12 hours per day.

The water and sewage infrastructure in the Gaza Strip was overstretched and partially non-operational prior to the storm. As of 21:00, 14 December, several water storm lagoons and pumping stations across Gaza city have overflowed, flooding extensive residential areas. The number of affected people is being currently assessed. The Gaza Municipality declared a state of emergency and requested families to evacuate the affected areas. Heavy flooding has occurred across Gaza since 12 December, resulting in the displacement of approximately 10,000 people to temporary shelters and relatives’ homes. This figure is expected to increase. While the Israeli authorities supplied Gaza with four mobile water pumps, another five pumps are urgently needed.

On 13 December, the Erez Crossing with Israel was flooded and rendered inaccessible. Medical evacuations to hospitals in the West Bank and Israel will be temporarily carried out through Kerem Shalom Crossing, normally used for goods. Initial reports indicate that one infant died as a result of the cold and nearly 100 were injured in storm-related accidents.

Over 20 per cent of greenhouses and 10 per cent of open fields crops in Gaza have been flooded or damaged, further undermining vulnerable livelihoods. Food insecurity remains high in Gaza (57 per cent) and thus the impact on food prices and access to food for vulnerable people will need to be closely monitored in the coming days.


In the West Bank, the impact has been of concern as well, characterized by a lack of access to multiple areas. The governorates most affected by the snow, reaching over one metre in some places, are Nablus, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. Other areas in the northern West Bank (Salfit, in particular) have been affected by heavy rainfall, which has caused flooding and damage to homes. Electricity outages have been widespread, including 80 per cent of Ramallah City during the first day of the storm, among many other areas. UNRWA is closely monitoring the situation in the 19 refugee camps in the West Bank, with several instances of flooding and domestic fires, requiring evacuation or assistance being reported. Emergency Psychosocial Support Teams have been responding to hundreds of calls for assistance, however, the number of families and children reached has been limited due to access constraints and power shortfalls.

The lack of adequate planning and inability to obtain building permits has contributed to the precarious nature of housing and animal shelters in many herder communities in Area C of the West Bank, compounding the impact of the extreme weather; several herding communities had their structures demolished one day before the storm hit, prompting the UN Humanitarian Coordinator to call again for a halt to demolitions due to their humanitarian impact. This population has been also affected by significant livestock losses due to the storm and it is anticipated that further losses will occur due to the spreading of diseases.



Needs

Gaza Strip
As of 21:00, 14 December, several water storm lagoons and pumping stations across Gaza city had overflowed, flooding extensive residential areas (the number of affected people is being currently assessed); a few water pumps and generators were rendered non-operational. The Municipality declared a state of emergency and requested families to evacuate the following affected areas:
Needs flooded area is estimated to be 1km2. The area is being drained 24 hours by Municipality suction trucks, in addition to a mobile pump with a capacity of 70-100 m3 per hour.

The situation in Khan Yunis has also reached a critical stage; as of 20:00 hours, 14 December, Al Amal pond, a 500,000 m2, over 5 metre deep pond for rainwater collection, is expected to overflow, putting 20,000 people at risk of displacement.

Many homes across the Gaza Strip have been affected by the collapse of cesspits, which lead to further flooding, mixed with sewage.

West Bank
Response
Gaps
Response
Gaps


Needs
Response
Gaps


Needs
Response
Gaps


Needs
Response
Gaps


Needs
Response and Gaps
NTR



In the Gaza Strip key UN and governmental organizations have been involved in monitoring the situation and coordinating responses: UNRWA has set up an operations room; the CMWU is following on up on WASH needs and requirements, including with Israel, with the support of UNSCO; the MoSa is coordinating the needs assessments and distribution of food and NFIs with various actors in the food security sector. OCHA has been liaising with all the above bodies to facilitate their efforts.

The Israeli Ministry if Defense (COGAT) called for a meeting with key international donors and diplomats on 14 December to discuss potential measures to address the current crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The overall response coordination in the West Bank has been led by the various Governorate offices, along with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the Palestinian Civil Defense. Cluster and sector leads have been working closely with their counterparts in key ministries and field coordination has been ongoing between the national and international partners, with the support of OCHA, to optimize existing capacities and avoid overlaps.

OCHA has also established an inter-agency online database, to track needs and response at the community level. Clusters coordinators and governmental counterparts are feeding information into this system.

The Humanitarian Country Team held an extraordinary meeting on 14 December, led by the Humanitarian Coordinator, James Rawley, focusing on the assessment and response to the extreme weather. The Inter-Cluster Coordination Group would be meeting in the coming days to continue coordinating assessments and response.



Ongoing needs assessments by various humanitarian actors, aimed at identifying the scope of interventions and funding required to address the impacts of the storm, will continue during the coming days.

The 2013 Consolidated Appeal (CAP) is 63 per cent funded. However, funding has been uneven across Sectors and Clusters. Key sectors for the current response, such as WASH and Agriculture have received low funding, with only 31 and 42 per cent of requested funds met, respectively. Protection Cluster projects received 63 per cent funding; however, of these, none of the nine shelter-related projects received full funding, and four received zero funding.



Since the 2013 CAP is due to expire in two weeks, OCHA will coordinate a joint review of projects included in the 2014 Strategic Response Plan of the Humanitarian Program Cycle (HPC) to highlight to donors those to be prioritized to meet the emerging needs from the storm, as well as those projects requiring revision. OCHA has also encouraged partners to consider applying to the Emergency Response Fund (ERF), which provides rapid funding to NGOs and UN agencies to support humanitarian activities in emergencies. So far no
application has been submitted.

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