10 December 2015
• Under this years’ theme “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities”, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP), through its disability programme and in cooperation with the Coordination Committee of the Community Centers (CCCC), celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the UNRWA Gaza Vocational Training hall on 3 December. During the ceremony, different groups of students with disabilities showed a variety of performances, including Dabka dance, songs or performances through sign language. The ceremony was attended by different senior UNRWA staff members including the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza and the Deputy Director for Programmes, as well as representatives from Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRCs), including students with disabilities who are enrolled in these centres. In 2015, UNRWA RSSP through its disability programme provided a total of 252 assistive devices, including wheel chairs and hearing aids, to Palestine refugees in Gaza. Further, 132 visually impaired students are receiving their education at the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired and over 8,930 students with special education needs are hosted in various UNRWA schools and provided with extra support.
• From 4 to 29 November, 108 UNRWA health programme personnel – 21 Senior Medical Officers, 17 Senior Nurses and 70 Practical Nurses - have been trained in 14 different workshops held by the Palestinian Ministry of Health on the rotavirus vaccination. The rota-vaccine will be introduced in 2016; each refugee child with date of birth on or after 1 January 2016 will receive two doses of the vaccine – the first at the age of two months and the second at the age of four months. This training was organized within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in August 2015 between UNRWA and the non-partisan and non-political organization Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation (RVF) for the purpose of implementing a rotavirus vaccination programme in Gaza and the West Bank. RVF aims at improving the health of children in need through selected, sustainable and transformational public health programmes which aligns well with the UNRWA health programme. The partnership will thus ensure a high quality vaccination drive and allow making a difference on vaccination coverage for rotavirus in the occupied Palestinian territory.
• UNRWA on 6 December 2016 inaugurated Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan City in Khan Younis, as well as four new schools in Gaza. The housing project was funded through a generous contribution from the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent (UAERC). A total of 4,000 Palestine refugee persons will benefit from 600 new housing units prepared to re-house refugee families who were living in poor and inadequate shelters. The project started in 2007 and was halted for almost five years due to the Israeli blockade and conflicts in Gaza .The four schools that were inaugurated at the ceremony represent Phase 1 of the generous contribution from UAERC. Senior UNRWA staff members and representatives from the UAE Red Crescent as well as the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing were present at the inauguration ceremony.
• The first phase of the Deir El Balah camp improvement project – the participatory urban planning phase - is due to finish at the end of this month. After engaging community participations throughout 2015, through holding focus groups, organizing thematic and specific workshops, outreach visits and facilitating expert consultations, the UNRWA Deir El Balah Camp Improvement Pilot project team is finalizing the urban planning process through the identification of specific interventions based on the priorities identified by the community. For this reason, the team is currently undertaking interviews with individual families whose houses have been identified for demolition as a result of road network development, allocation of green and vacant areas, and areas for rebuilding multi-story buildings inside the camp, to discuss potential alternatives, such as the allocation of an apartment inside the camp, the provision of an extended family house, or a single family building, outside the camp, or the reconstruction of the house on the same plot of land, but occupying a smaller footprint on the land. Approximately 500 houses - involving approximately 765 refugee families - are planned for removal due to the camp improvement project. Interviews with 470 concerned families have already been concluded and are underway with a further 295. Upon completion of all interviews, the final urban master plan will be drafted and presented. Community participation will be ongoing for the duration of the project, including during the construction phase.
• To raise awareness for the Human Rights Day and the 67thanniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrated annually on 10 December – and to show that human rights need to be celebrated every day – on 3 December UNRWA held human rights celebrations in all of its 257 schools across the Gaza Strip. Under the theme of ‘Diversity’ in every UNRWA school students organized a wide-range of activities, including games, speeches, Dabka dance and other performances, to promote human rights values. Besides the students, parents, teachers and School Principals also participated in the events.
• The UNRWA Safety and Security Division (SSD) training team was formed in early 2015, mainly to teach the core elements of safety and security to the UNRWA Gaza guard force as well as to other UNRWA personnel in Gaza. Between 1 November and 7 December, SSD trained 486 UNRWA personnel in 18 different training sessions; 394 UNRWA guards, employed through the Job Creation Programme, were trained on their duties and tasks, including on how to protect UNRWA installations, assets and the Agency’s reputation and programmes; further, 38 UNRWA staff members enjoyed first aid training, 32 UN international and national staff members went through the Safe and Secure Approaches in the Field Environment training course and 22 UNRWA staff members participated in the Area Staff Safety Approaches in the Field Environment (ASSAFE) training course. The creation of the SSD training team came after an assessment identified the need to strengthen the safety and security knowledge of UNRWA guards and staff in order to respond to the challenges encountered in the course of their duties. The training team consists of an International Training Coordinator, Training Officer, and three Safety and Security Trainers, and commenced operations from the UNRWA Khan Younis Training Centre (KYTC), in late April 2015. By the first quarter of 2016, the training team will have built sufficient capacity within the Area Staff with the intent that Area Staff will be training Area Staff on all aspects of safety and security matters, under the guidance of SSD management.
• In the past few years, UNRWA has progressively engaged in addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in emergencies through establishing referral systems in each of the five fields of operation. While the progress made so far has been instrumental in improving access to services for survivors of GBV, greater efforts are needed to ensure that a stronger foundation for understanding gendered impacts of emergency operations is embedded within the Agency in order to enable staff to identify GBV risks and mainstream risks mitigation across all sectors of operations. For this purpose, UNRWA held an agency-wide workshop from 7 to 9 December in Amman, Jordan, involving different UNRWA personnel in various roles, and aiming at integrating GBV into emergency preparedness and response at a strategic and operational level through the project “Building Safety: Strengthening GBV Prevention and Preparedness.” During the workshop, participants discussed minimum emergency standard operating procedures (SOP) on prevention and mitigation of GBV that can be of guidance for all those actors concerned with emergency operations. The workshop also aimed at increasing the ability to recognize, understand and address GBV, and particularly sexual violence, among key frontline staff operating in emergencies. From the UNRWA Gaza Field Office, a diverse delegation from the Health, Relief and Social Services, Community Mental Health Programmes, the Gender Initiative as well as from the Safety and Security Division, participated in the workshop.
• Shelter update:
• During the reporting week, UNRWA was able to disburse approximately US$ 1.19 million in funding available for reconstruction (US$ 309,008) and repair works of severely damaged shelters (US$ 887,707). The funds will reach a total of 242 refugee families across the Gaza Strip. The families will be able to access this assistance through local banks next week.
Overview of payments
• As of 9 December, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 141,117 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished (concerning 7,400 families). 5,318 shelters (concerning 5,850 families) have suffered severe, 3,700 major (concerning 4,070 families) and 122,982 minor (concerning 135,280 families) damages.
• Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 134.69 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or demolished during the 2014 summer conflict.
• UNRWA has completed the payments to over 66,300 Palestine refugee families – more than half of the caseload – for minor repair works, to 1,309 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, to 11 families for major repair works and to 10 families for reconstruction. Payment transfers for over 11,000 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for 163 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters are ongoing.
• Over 13,160 families have received a rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014. Disbursement of subsequent installments entailed further eligibility checks through which over 9,900 families have received the relevant rental subsidy payments during the period from January to August 2015.
Gaps and needs
• Due to lack of funding, as of 9 December 2015, over 59,900 refugee families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes. Further, over 3,200 families have not received any payments to repair their major damaged homes and over 3,350 families have not received payments to repair their severely damaged homes. Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of over 47,000 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
• Over 15 months after the last conflict ended, 7,200 refugee families have not received any payments to start repairing their totally demolished homes.
• Due to lack of sufficient funding also approximately 9,000 families have not received rental subsidy payments to cover the last four months of 2015.
Operational environment: While the economy in the West Bank has grown by 250 per cent over the past 20 years, in Gaza, during the same time the economy has only grown by two per cent, states the World Bank country director of the occupied Palestinian territory, Steen Jorgensen, in a recentblog post, adding that there has been de-development in Gaza “due to the blockade, repeated wars and poor governance” as documented in a recent World Bank report. Yet donors, the director argues, should not pull out of Gaza and leave the “hard-working, long suffering” Palestinians with no support, but keep addressing the political constraints to development. He also highlighted that a new effort is needed to reshape the Palestinian economy towards a vibrant private sector led growth path with social justice, yet this will be beyond reach until there is a peace agreement.
Indeed, until a full lifting of the blockade, the creativity and business talent of the Palestinian people in Gaza will remain hindered and unemployment and poverty rates will continue to be high, adding to feelings of injustice, frustration and desperation.
These feelings have also in this ninth consecutive week led hundreds of people, mainly youth, to protest in support of Al Aqsa Mosque and developments in the West Bank across Gaza and in the vicinity of the perimeter fence. Demonstrations were also held during the reporting week for the opening of Rafah crossing, to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities or against UNRWA with a focus on unemployment and shelter.
On 3 December a house collapsed in Gaza city; one person died and two persons were injured.
On 2 December an Explosive Remnant of War (ERW) was found in an open area in the east of Maghazi camp in southern Gaza. The police handled it and no injuries were reported.
As part of several other ongoing activities during these 16 days, on 6 December 2015 the UNRWA School Parliament of the Mustafa Hafez Co-ed School in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, organized a discussion between approximately 30 students and five parents on the topic of early marriage.
After a short introduction on the procedures and topic, the president of the School Parliament asked the participants to divide themselves into three groups based on their initial opinion on the topic (“pro”, “contra” and “neutral”). Following that, each group was able to present their arguments.
“Early marriage is part of our customs and traditions and it makes sense for economic reasons,” said one student to defend the concept of early marriage. “Early marriage deprives children of their childhood, poses health risks and is too big of a responsibility for children,” countered a student who opposed the concept. “I oppose early marriage because we need to create an educated generation for the future; early marriage deprives children of their education, and they are not able to educate and empower their own children. This way, an uneducated generation leads to the next uneducated generation,” argued one mother who strongly opposed early marriage.
Following the lively discussion, 9th grade student Ghadir El Barki performed a very passionate sketch she had prepared on the concept of early marriage, touching upon many different topics such as honour, gender-based violence, violence against children, polygamy, fear or divorce.
“We don’t have to obey customs and traditions, if they hurt our children,” summarized one father the overall atmosphere following the sketch which had ended with a tumultuous applause.
At the end of the discussion session, some of the participating students presented statistics they had gathered through their own research on early marriage and GBV in Gaza, as another argument in this pertinent debate.
“This session was an important step to create more awareness on this topic. We need to talk about early marriage in our schools and in our community 365 days a year, and not just during these 16 days of the campaign,” concluded Yahia Naser, the UNRWA Human Rights Education Specialist in the Gaza Area. “Indeed, early marriage is not a seasonal issue. It is a permanent issue, it is our issue and it concerns our children – the most precious thing in our lives,” confirmed his colleague Khaled Abu Safya, the UNRWA Human Rights Education Specialist in the Khan Younis Area.
The School Parliament discussion fit well into many other different activities implemented by UNRWA over the course of the UN 16 days campaign, such as trainings of human rights teachers and students on early marriage, adolescent health, GBV and women’s human rights or the organization of theatre sketches, open discussion forums and exhibitions on causes and consequences of GBV in CBOs and Women Programme Centres across the Gaza Strip. With its wide-range of activities, over the course of the 16 days the Agency will reach approximately 2,400 community members across the enclave.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian fisher boats and Palestinian farmers near the perimeter fence on an almost daily basis. On 6 December Israeli forces reportedly fired tear gas bombs towards Palestinian areas in northern Gaza and one person reportedly suffered gas inhalation.
Regular protests in support of Al Aqsa mosque and the West Bank were held in the vicinity of the perimeter fence. Protests took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, east of Gaza city, in the vicinity of Erez crossing or in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. During these protests, some participants reportedly approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with gunfire and tear gas. A total of approximately 40 persons were reportedly injured due to Israeli gun fire and approximately 17 are reported to have suffered from gas inhalation.
On 2 December militants reportedly fired two rockets from northern Gaza towards Israel. The rockets dropped short and no injuries were reported.
On 4 December militants reportedly fired two test rockets from southern Gaza towards Israel. Both rockets dropped short and reportedly hit two Palestinian houses near the perimeter fence. The houses were damaged but no injuries were reported.
On 4 December Israeli troops reportedly opened fire and fired two shells towards an open area in southern Gaza. Two persons were injured. On the same day militants reportedly opened fire from southern Gaza towards an Israeli military vehicle near the perimeter fence
On 6 December militants reportedly opened fire towards Israeli troops patrolling the perimeter fence from
southern Gaza. The Israeli troops reportedly retaliated with fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.
On 7 December the Israeli Air Force reportedly fired two missiles targeting a Hamas military training site in
Gaza city. Damage was reported to the adjacent Palestinian house. No injuries were reported.
Thanks to generous donors, UNRWA has overcome its immediate and most serious financial crisis. For 2016, the Agency now projects a deficit of US$ 81 million, down from US$ 135 million as estimated earlier this year. This is the first time in ten years that UNRWA expects a zero-growth programme budget owing to strategic changes in staffing, business processes including procurement, budgeting norms, and service delivery models, amongst other measures.
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.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking US$ 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including US$ 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, US$ 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and US$ 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. Read more in the 2015 oPt Emergency Appeal.
• Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 Palestinians in Gaza. 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 from 1 to 2 and from 5 to 8 December. It was open on 3 and 4 December. On 3 December 300 persons entered Gaza and 300 persons crossed to Egypt. On 4 December 564 persons entered Gaza, 1,048 persons crossed to Egypt and 90 persons were denied entry into Egypt.
• 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 1 to 3 December and from 6 to 8 December. On 4 December it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 5 December.
• Kerem Shalom crossing is usually open five days a week. It was open from 1 to 3 December and from 6 to 8 December. It was closed on 4 and 5 December.