The open-ended ceasefire which entered into force on 26 August continues to hold. The scale of damage resulting from the 50-day escalation in hostilities is unprecedented since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967. All governorates in Gaza witnessed extensive aerial bombardment, naval shelling and artillery fire, resulting in the widespread loss of life and livelihoods. Damage to public infrastructure was also unprecedented, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without adequate services, including electricity, clean water and quality healthcare.
The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) remains inoperable following an Israeli airstrike on 29 July and despite extensive repairs, electricity outages of 18 hours a day continue in most areas across Gaza. Extensive damage to the water and wastewater system means that 20 to 30 per cent of households, or 450,000 people, remain unable to access municipal water due to damage and/or low pressure. Following the ceasefire there was a steep decline in the number of internally displaced persons, but figures have gradually risen again in UNRWA shelters, and an estimated 110,000 are still displaced, including with host families Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) are a major protection concern and pose a risk to those returning to their homes and involved in repair and reconstruction activities.
The majority of the Gaza population has lost its productive assets. According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries, 419 businesses and workshops were damaged, with 128 completely destroyed. With limited activity at the commercial crossings and extensive damage to private infrastructure and other productive assets, business activities were largely paralyzed during the operation. Hostilities forced farmers and herders to abandon their lands, and resulted in substantial direct damage to Gaza's 17,000 hectares of croplands as well as much of its agricultural infrastructure, including greenhouses, irrigation systems, animal farms, fodder stocks and fishing boats. Access to the sea was also prohibited for most of the 50 days of hostilities; restrictions have been restored to the six nautical mile limit, but there have been reports of shooting at, and detaining, fishermen in recent days, reportedly for exceeding this limit.
These losses come on top of an already fragile economy and livelihoods. Around 66 per cent of the population of Gaza was receiving food assistance prior to the crisis and the household food insecurity level or vulnerable to food insecure stood at 72 per cent of households. Unemployment has increased dramatically since mid-2013, following a halt of the illegal tunnel trade with Egypt, soaring from 28 per cent in the third quarter (Q3) of 2013 to 45 per cent in Q2 2014; almost 70 per cent of the youth aged 20-24 were unemployed in Gaza in Q2 2014. It is expected that labour market conditions in Gaza will further deteriorate following the conflict, exacerbating the impact of the blockade and the longstanding access restrictions imposed by Israel which have been preventing any meaningful economic activity.
In addition to shelter solutions, the main priority for humanitarian agencies continues to be the repair and reconstruction and the restoration of essential services to affected communities, which effectively means the entire population of the Gaza Strip. However, this will not be possible without a more permanent agreement that will allow for the entry of the materials needed to re-build homes, schools and hospitals, to repair roads, electricity lines and water and sanitation networks and bring about transformational change in Gaza.
Hostilities and casualties
The cumulative death toll among Palestinians as a result of the hostilities is at least 2,131 according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 379 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established. Of the initially verified cases, 1,473 are believed to be civilians, including 501 children and 257 women; 279 members of armed groups. Many fatalities involved multiple family members, with at least 142 Palestinian families having three or more members killed in the same incident, for a total of 739 fatalities. Approximately 25 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have reportedly been killed in Gaza by armed groups since 21 August (not included in the fatality toll above).
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of 26 August, 11,100 Palestinians, including 3,374 children and 2,088 women and 410 elderly, have been injured. Preliminary estimates indicate that up to 1,000 of the children injured will have a permanent disability and up to 1,500 orphaned children will need sustained support from the child protection and welfare sectors.
The cumulative Israeli fatality toll is 71, of whom 66 were soldiers, one security coordinator, and four were civilians, including one child; one foreign national civilian was also killed in Israel. Dozens of other Israelis, including at least six children, were directly injured by rockets or shrapnel.
At the height of the conflict, an estimated 485,000 people — twenty-eight per cent of the population of Gaza — were internally displaced, including in UNRWA schools designated as emergency shelters (290,000), government schools (15,000), in informal shelters such as empty buildings, churches or mosques, and with host families (170,000), representing 28 per cent of the population of Gaza. The numbers decreased during the extended period of temporary ceasefires between 11 and 19 August, but soared again to 475,000 prior to the 26 August open-ended ceasefire.
Following the ceasefire there was a dramatic decline in the number of IDPs, with the numbers in UNRWA designated shelters decreased from 289,000 to 53,000 between 26 and 27 August. However, the numbers have been climbing gradually again with some 60,812 registered in 31 UNRWA shelters as of yesterday evening - higher than the number of displaced sheltered during the peak of the 'Cast Lead' hostilities in December 2008/January 2009. The reason for the increase appears to be a movement from government shelters — most of which have now closed — and host families to UNRWA shelters. An estimated 50,000 are staying with host families and 700 sheltering in two government schools.
The water and wastewater situation in Gaza was already critical before the emergency, due to continued over-pumping and contamination of the coastal aquifer, and continual electricity and fuel shortages. Water and wastewater services were further hampered during the war, due to aggravations of electricity and fuel shortages and the inaccessibility of many wells, pumping stations, and other facilities within the Israeli declared buffer zone. Despite the improved access to these areas following the cessation of hostilities, services remain affected due to the damage sustained to some facilities, including the Gaza Power Plant (GPP).
An initial Damage Assessment Report (DAR) by the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) indicates that 12 per cent of wells have been destroyed or damaged, particularly in Gaza City, Beit Hanoun, and Deir al Balah municipalities. Agricultural and standby wells, typically with lower water quality and no chlorination, have been used by many municipalities to supplement water supplies and replace damaged wells. The DAR further identified over 33,000 metres of damaged water and wastewater networks but the figure does not include northern Gaza, which was either inaccessible or covered with rubble at the time of the report. The DAR also indicates that five per cent of main lines, three per cent of distribution lines, and 12 per cent of household connections have been damaged. There have been complaints about water quality in Rafah and Gaza municipalities, with particular concerns about sewage entering water pipes due to damage. Wastewater treatment plants in Beit Lahiya and Gaza City are not fully functioning due to damage in the plants themselves or to pressure lines. Consequently, raw sewage is discharging directly to sea or infiltrating into sand dunes. Although solid waste is being collected in most areas, it is less frequent than usual and is gathered in temporary sites within communities rather than dumped in designated landfills.
CMWU has been actively repairing damage and addressed about 80 percent of the priority repairs, focusing on those affecting the greatest number of people. Despite this, current estimates are that 20 to 30 percent of households, or 450,000 people, remain unable to access municipal water due to damage and/or low pressure. Additionally, many of these repairs are temporary and will require longer term repair after emergency works are completed. The reduction in network pressure due to damage and power cuts are also reducing the availability of water to households, with the result that the number of pumping hours reported by municipalities does not always correspond with the hours households receive water. Additionally, households which do not have electricity and/or supplemental pumps cannot fill rooftop storage tanks when water is available.
An estimated five per cent of the entire housing stock in Gaza is uninhabitable - 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving approximately 108,000 people homeless. This is in addition to the pre-crisis housing deficit of 71,000 housing units, due to people living in overcrowded or inadequate conditions.
Assessment teams from UNRWA, UNDP, and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing (MPWH) will conduct detailed damage assessment in all locations starting next week. UNRWA and UNDP teams will conduct detailed damage assessment for shelters of refugee and non-refugee families respectively. Joint teams including UNRWA, UNDP and MPWH will be formed for quality control and appeals.
Gaza's health system suffers from chronic shortages in medicine, medical supplies and equipment and there have been limited training opportunities for staff. The energy crisis and the lack of fmancial support for the Ministry of Health had negatively impacted the continuity and quality of services prior to the recent emergency.
Over the past week a number of health facilities that had been closed throughout the hostilities have re-opened and are providing services, however, suffering from the same chronic conditions as previously with regard to lack of electricity, shortage of drug supplies and equipment. As of 3 September, three out of 32 hospitals remain closed with a further three having opened with limited service capacity; 24 out of 9'7 primary health centres (PHCs) remain closed. The closure of the PHCs has resulted in the overburdening of facilities in their vicinity, causing long waiting hours and considerable strain on staff and supplies. With 50 PHCs and 17 hospitals having reported damage to their infrastructure there is urgent need to repair and reopen facilities to ensure basic services are met in all five Gaza governorates.
All 474,000 children enrolled in government, UNRWA or private primary and secondary schools and 55,003 children enrolled in kindergartens, as well as 30,002 university-aged youths, have been affected by the conflict. Twenty-two schools were completely destroyed and 118 schools damaged by conflict. UNRWA has reported at least 75 damaged school buildings. Many of the higher education facilities, including the Islamic University in Gaza, have also been affected. The education sector was already overstretched prior to the crisis, suffering from a shortage of almost 200 schools, with classes running in double shifts.
The new school year was scheduled to start on 24 August, but has been postponed to 14 September. When schools open, children will face even more acute over-crowding and under-resourcing as a result of the collateral damage suffered. Priorities are ERW clearance and the rehabilitation of schools from damage sustained and because of their employment as emergency shelters for IDPs. Furniture, textbooks and learning materials will also need to be replaced. Transportation is also a concern as students and teachers may need to travel some distance to schools, due to displacement or damaged schools. Additionally, with hundreds of thousands of children in need of psychosocial support (PSS), teachers and educational staff (many of whom have also experienced acute trauma) will be stretched to provide the appropriate support required to ease children back in to school and to provide ongoing support throughout the school year.
Key humanitarian priorities:
Temporary shelter and housing solutions to IDPs: immediate and short term plans to accommodate the tens of thousands of families who were rendered homeless are urgently needed.
Sustained opening of crossings: is vital, alongside the removal of restrictions on the entry of materials for rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Explosive Remnants of War (ERW): rapid clearance of built-up areas and critical facilities, as well as awareness raising campaigns amongst the most vulnerable, are urgently needed.
Additional fuel supply: fuel is needed to operate backup generators at essential facilities, including water, sanitation and health, for longer hours.
Humanitarian needs and response
The problematic area for WASH response now lies within communities and neighborhoods east of Salah ad Deen Road, which have been partially or completely destroyed. For those areas which require urban or rural planning / master plans, service providers depend upon comprehensive reconstruction plans in order to re-design the water and sanitation network.
Health and Nutrition
The data collection for the Multi-Cluster Inter-agency Rapid Needs Assessment (MIRA), led by the EOC has been completed. Clusters and sectors have completed analysis of the data generated from the two level needs assessments, which covered both the governorate and municipal levels. A report summarizing the main findings of the MIRA will be released next week.
The Humanitarian Coordinator and the Deputy Prime Minister discussed the necessary complementarity and coordination between the Humanitarian Appeal (Gaza Crisis Appeal) and the Government-led 100 Day Plan. A joint presentation to donors by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Humanitarian Coordinator of the revised Gaza Crisis Appeal is scheduled for 9 September in Ramallah.
Based on information available, partners have so far received approximately $186 million for their projects in the appeal. This is largely made up however, of funding to a few big UN agencies. Despite reasonable to good funding to these larger UN agencies, many humanitarian partners working in critical areas have received little to no funding for their Crisis Appeal interventions, including national NGOs who are key partners on the ground. Particular attention must be paid to key sectors for example Health, WASH, Education and Protection, which have been underfunded to date. Much more funding is also needed in Shelter and Food Security given the size of the request.
According to FTS, up to $171 million has been directed outside the appeal (committed and pledged) since the start of the Crisis, the bulk of which destined for Gaza. Of the funding reported outside the appeal, the majority has been from Gulf-based donors ($125 million), with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the largest contributor ($80 million).
A revised Gaza Crisis appeal is due to be issued shortly.
The Emergency Response Fund (ERF) is an additional mechanism available to fund interventions in Gaza through rapid and flexible support to affected civilian populations. The ERF has begun processing project applications in regards to the Gaza emergency. To date, 13 project proposals were approved for a total of US $3.1 million Further funding for the ERF is still being sought.
UN humanitarian agencies, in cooperation with NGO partners have applied to the CERF Rapid Response window to cover urgent needs in food assistance, psychosocial support, WASH, rubble removal and critical drugs.
On 7 July 2014, the Israeli army launched a large military operation in the Gaza Strip, codenamed "Protective Edge", with the stated objective of stopping Palestinian rocket firing at southern Israel and destroying the military infrastructure of Hamas and other armed groups.
This development marked the collapse of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire understanding reached between Israel and Hamas in November 2012, which has been gradually undermined since December 2013. The latest escalation round started in early June, characterized by an intensification of Israeli airstrikes and rockets launched from Gaza at southern Israel. Tensions further increased following the abduction and killing of three Israeli youths in the southern West Bank, on 12 June, which the Israeli government attributed to Hamas. Overall, in the period leading up to the start of the current operation a total of 15 Palestinians, including one civilian, were killed, and another 58 others, mostly civilians, injured, as a result of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip; seven Israelis, five of whom were civilians, were injured due to rocket fire.
The current crisis comes against a backdrop of heightened vulnerability and instability. Unemployment increased dramatically since mid-2013, following a halt of the illegal tunnel trade, exacerbating the impact of the Israeli blockade in place since June 2007. Additionally, former de facto government employees, including the security forces, have not been paid salaries regularly since August 2013 and no salaries at all since April 2014. Delivery of basic services has been also undermined due to an ongoing energy crisis, involving power outages of 12 hours per day.
For further information, please contact:
Ms. Katleen Maes, Head of the humanitarian Emergency Operations Center in Gaza, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 592 911 047
Mr. Ray Dolphin, Analysis, Communications and Protection Unit, OCHA oPt, email@example.com, +972 54 331 1827 F
For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms.Hayat Abu-Saleh, Communications and Information Analyst, OCHA oPt, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 (0) 54 3311816
For more information, please visit www.ochaopt.org
1Data on fatalities Aand destruction of property is consolidated by the Protection and Shelter clusters based on preliminary information, and is subject to change based on further verifications.