12 March 2015
3 March - 10 March Issue 83
• UNRWA teamed up with local artists to paint murals across the Gaza Strip in celebration of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2015, under the slogan “Empower Women, Empower Humanity…Picture it!” The eye-catching images illustrate women in Gaza working as musicians, judges, engineers, football players and taxi drivers. The message of the vibrant paintings is clear: Women can. The objective of the graffiti-style paintings was not only to bring women issues to the forefront through art, but to contrast people’s perception with reality. Women in these positions already exist in Gaza – although not in high numbers due to both the difficult economic situation hindering employment opportunities and the implications of traditional values prevailing in society. UNRWA’s International Women’s Day celebration also included Open Day events in each of Gaza’s five governorates organized in cooperation with 35 of UNRWA Gender Initiative’s partner CBOs, attracting over 2000 people. “Many men see women’s contribution to society as raising children and cleaning the house; as though women should just never think about their own career,” commented 23-years old Hadeel who participated in the celebrations in Gaza’s Middle Area. These events were generously supported by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (BMZ).
• “You, our women staff members, continue to show hope and resourcefulness in the face of adversity, setting an example to all of us. The dedication and commitment with which you do your work is a constant reminder of our duty to serve Palestine refugees,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl in a statement issued on International Women’s Day and directed towards female UNRWA staff. In the statement he reaffirmed UNRWA’s commitment to realize the goals of gender equality and the advancement of the rights of Palestine refugee women and girls, which is only possible due to the strength, force and energy of Palestinian women.
• “I am like any other displaced person. My house was damaged by shelling. When I was running I could only think of one thing: that I had to go to the collective centre because I had to help the people who were running with me,” says UNRWA Collective Centre Manager, Susan El Dabba at the beginning of a newly produced short film by UNRWA TV released to commemorate International Women’s Day. The video can be viewed atUNRWA’s Facebook page or on YouTube. Susan is one of UNRWA’s everyday heroines. She works as a manager of the Zaitoun Prep Elem Collective Centre in Gaza City and shows her heroism every day by serving the Gaza community while at the same time living though the same crisis. “It increases my confidence and happiness that the people I am serving feel secure,” Susan said.
• On 8-11 March, accompanied by UNRWA staff, a representative from the Saudi Fund for Development visited the Saudi funded Rehousing Project and Health Centre in Rafah, visited an UNRWA Collective Centre and met with representatives from the Al Azhar University in Gaza City. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is, with US$ 48.5 million, the largest contributor to the UNRWA shelter and rental subsidies programme; overall, US$ 175 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency programme.
• On 4-5 March the Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, Mr Ahmad Hindawi, entered Gaza where he met with local youth organisations and activists to discuss youth priorities, obstacles and challenges. He also visited an UNRWA Collective Centre where he was briefed by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr Robert Turner, on the high youth unemployment rates in Gaza and the lack of career perspectives. Following the briefing Mr. Hindawi enjoyed the rehearsal of the Gaza Singing for Peace concert (Music Against Violence Project) as well as a Karate exhibition and a Girls Basketball game at the Gaza Sporting Club. The invitation of Mr. Ahmad Al Hindawi had been initiated from the Higher Council for Youth & Sports to visit the State of Palestine in order to bring the challenges and concerns of the Palestinian youth to the attention of UN high officials.
• On the fourth anniversary of the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan, a message of continued empathy and solidarity took to the skies of Gaza. On, Monday 9 March 2015, over one thousand Palestine refugee students from UNRWA schools in Gaza gathered to fly kites in commemoration of the disaster that killed thousands of people and caused immense damage. At the event in Gaza, Mr. Junya Matsuura, Ambassador for the Palestinian Affairs, said: “Children of Gaza are still suffering a lot from the blockade and distress. Japan would like to show its solidarity with them and will continue its efforts in helping them mitigate their sufferings.” The fourth annual kite-flying event in Khan Younis highlights the close relationship between Japanese people and Palestine refugees in Gaza.
• On 9-10 March, Ms Noriko Shirasu, the Chairperson of the Japanese Advocacy NGO ‘Action, Academy to Control Internationally’ visited the Gaza Strip seeking to better understand the material, human and social destruction across Gaza after last summer’s hostilities, and the UNRWA reconstruction efforts. Together with UNRWA staff, the Japanese representative attended the kite flying event on 9 March, visited an UNRWA Collective Centre and met with conflict-affected families in Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza. Ms Shirasu also visited the Beit Hanoun and Jabalia health centres and was briefed by counsellors who are involved in the Gender Based Violence Referral System ‘one-stop-centre’s’.
• The number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in UNRWA Collective Centres (CCs) continues to decrease with the Agency now providing shelter to around 8800 IDPs in 14 Agency-run CCs all across Gaza. During the week from 27 February to 5 March, UNRWA delivered 248 cubic meters of potable water to the CCs, which equals to about 4 litres of drinking water per day per person. An additional 1495 cubic meters of non-potable water were also trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the CCs, which is the equivalent of about 23 litres of domestic water per person per day. UNRWA also continued providing daily hot meals to the IDPs. The World Food Programme keeps delivering 700 grams of bread per every four IDPs per day through local bakeries. On International Women’s Day on 8 March two CCs held ceremonies and organized exhibitions of embroidery, handicraft and pottery. During 3-5 March a bazaar was opened in a CC in Khan Younis where IDP families sold their hand-made traditional products. About 3000 people attended the opening ceremony of the bazaar (see UNRWA’s response).
• UNRWA is committed to develop the full potential of Palestine refugees and ensure effective, efficient and quality education systems. The Agency began implementing an education reform in 2011 to meet the demands of the 21st century. In particular, it launched the School Based Teacher Development (SBTD) programme and started to change the classroom practices for teachers and students by helping teachers to develop active pedagogies, utilize focused classroom practices, make assessment for quality learning, promote literacy and numeracy, and engage parents in raising the achievement of their children. The reform process started in 2012 in the northern area and by October 2014 947 elementary cycle teachers in the northern area had completed all the modules of the SBTD. Currently 2544 elementary teachers are receiving the SBTD training in Gaza and the Middle Area. The reform also includes the training of school principles to shift the focus of schools to ‘active thinking classrooms’ with a long-term impact on learning skills.41 school principals have so far completed the Leading for the Future training in Rafah area and 93 of them are currently receiving the training in the North and Khan Younis areas. From 23 – 26 February a four-day workshop on Inclusive Education Toolkit policy and strategy was held in Gaza which 60 area education officers, education specialists, community health supervisors, school principals and special education teachers attended
Operational environment: Despite the celebration of International Women’s Day during the reporting week, the political and economic situation in Gaza remains tense and worrying - particularly in light of the upcoming legislative elections in Israel on March 17.
For the first time after 45 days of continuous closure the Rafah Crossing was opened on 9 and 10 March to allow people stuck on both sides to cross. On 9 March 956 persons entered Gaza, 361 crossed to Egypt, and 37 persons were denied entry into Egypt.
During the reporting week, daily protests and civil unrest continued outside UN installations and INGO offices. Protestors demanded the payment of their salaries or the advancement of the reconstruction process. Several female protests were held to mark International Women’s Day. The women raised issues ranging from the opening of the Rafah crossing to requesting a waterway between Gaza and the outside world, reconciliation between the different Palestinian factions and equal rights for women and an end of all forms of discrimination regarding women's role in society.
On 6 March eight persons, one of them armed, verbally assaulted the guards of the UNRWA Rimal Prep Girls School Collective Centre in Gaza city; the armed person fired shots in the air. Police opened an investigation. On 8 March unknown persons blew up a car parked in Nuseirat camp belonging to a Fatah activist.
UNRWA COLLECTIVE CENTRE CRAFT BAZAAR BRINGS HOPE TO MANY
Thirty-two-year-old Mahmoud Sulieman Sahmoud stands quietly behind a table loaded with pieces of intricate art he has fashioned out of shells and paper at a UNRWA Collective Centre Threads of Hope craft bazaar in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, last week.
The Palestine refugee speaks proudly as he explains how over many months he carefully fashioned each ornament out of shells he had collected at the nearby beaches in Khan Younis and Deir El Balah.
Speaking about his work marks a stark, but positive change for the young father of five children. Six months ago Mahmoud and his family’s lives were thrown upside down when their rented house in Azana Area, south of Gaza City, was destroyed as a consequence of the July/August 2014 summer conflict. A classroom in the UNRWA Collective Centre at Khan Younis prep boys school D has been their home ever since.
Life has been difficult for Mahmoud; however, while he greets potential customers at the bazaar and explains how his wife helped him to make the ornaments due to skills learnt at the UNRWA summer games, his voice grows with confidence: “I used to walk along the beach of Khan Younis searching for shells, my journey would start from the early hours of morning to the sunset,” said Mahmoud, commenting on how difficult it was to find exactly the right type of shell for his work.
He said the ornaments took hours to make, but it became an outlet for him to turn his anger and loss into something positive and beautiful.
In another corner of the bazaar stand Zwaida Al Braim and Dunia Al Farra, smiling and calling out to visitors to taste pastries they have made for sale. A small crowd of people stand near their stall. The women say they are connected not only by blood, but also by profession, loss and destiny. Before the summer conflict, they were able to provide a good livelihood for their families by selling their handmade pastries privately and to bakeries and organizations throughout the Gaza Strip.
But as with the devastation caused by the 50-day conflict, the women’s humble cooking room which contained their important baking equipment, along with their homes, was destroyed. Since August 2014, both women and their families have lived in the same Collective Centre as Mahmoud’s family.
The opportunity to sell at the bazaar has re-energised the women’s entrepreneurial skills; they have also reached out to other women at the three collective centres in Khan Younis by training a group of ten women how to make pastries. “These women were so happy and afterwards they went to their relative’s homes to practice what they had learned. They were so excited,” commented Dunia.
As hundreds of visitors made their way around the twenty stalls of the bazaar last week, UNRWA Khan Yunis Area Coordinator for the Collective Centres, Mr. Nahed Al Attar, seems relieved that his vision has come to fruition.
Recognising that the Collective Centres were temporary home to many talented people desperate for an outlet to revitalise their past skills, or a need to learn new ones, Mr Attar said he implemented a programme to encourage people to share their knowledge and hone their skills. Consequently, he spoke to local organizations and secured funding for craft material. The bazaar, offering a range of handmade goods such as wallets, bags, embroidery, wooden products and baked goods, was the outlet to sell their products.
“What these families had been through is very devastating. Staying at the Collective Centres with all the pressure inside created a tense atmosphere between the families. Involving them in something that is productive affects their personality and their attitudes, and decreased the tension among the families inside the Collective Centre,” said Mr Attar.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
During this week, IDF troops reportedly fired at Palestinians near the fence with Israel and at Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
On 4 March IDF troops arrested one Palestinian, and on 7 March another two, who attempted to cross into Israel and on 9 March IDF troops are reported to have arrested three Palestinians who tried to enter Israel. On 7 March a farmer was injured when an unexploded ordinance (UXO) detonated in a field. One day later another UXO detonated in the Khan Younis area and three people sustained shrapnel wounds. They were evacuated to the hospital. On 9 March a third UXO exploded in a house in Nuseirat in Gaza’s Middle Area; one person was injured.
On 4 March IDF bulldozers reportedly entered Gaza approximately150 metres and conducted a clearing operation before withdrawing to the border. On 6 March an Israeli patrol boat reportedly opened fire towards Palestinian fishing boats and injured two Palestinians; three others were arrested and the boat was confiscated. One day later it was reported that an Israeli patrol boat again opened fire at Palestinian boats and killed one person. Another Palestinian was injured during the incident and two were arrested.
On 2, 4, 5 and 6 March militants fired test rockets towards the sea. No injuries were reported.
US$ 175 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 545 million. UNRWA urgently requires US$ 100 million in the first quarter of 2015 to allow refugee families with minor damage to repair their homes and to provide ongoing rental subsidies.
On 9 December 2014, UNRWA launched the oPt Emergency Appeal in Geneva. For its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.
• The Rafah Crossing remained closed from 3-8 March; it was open on 9 and 10 March for the first time since 45 days.
• The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff during the reporting week. On 6 March Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 7March.
• Kerem Shalom was open between 3-4 and 8-10 March. It was closed on 6 and 7 March as well as on 5 March due to the Jewish holiday of Purim.