02 August 2016
Mohammad Al Kafarna, member of the UNRWA Gaza central school parliament. Learn more here
On 23 July, UNRWA opened Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) 2016 under the slogan “Let the fun begin, a light of hope amid despair” in the Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School (B) in Gaza city. The ceremony included different activities for children such as the traditional Palestinian Dabka dance, games, and drawing workshops. The opening was attended by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, a number of UNRWA senior staff, representatives from local community organizations, United Nations sister agencies and Non-Government Organizations working in Gaza. The SFWs will run until 11 August and take place in 120 locations across the Gaza Strip. Activities include a variety of sports, arts and educational activities to give the children a chance to play, learn and express themselves in a safe and secure environment, and to acquire the social values of team spirit, respect, and cooperation. The SFWs are also one of the Agency’s measures to address the psychosocial impact of repeated armed conflicts and dire socio-economic conditions in Gaza on children, providing the participants with a chance to release stress and pressure. Further, the SFWs create a total of 2,267 short term job opportunities for mostly young unemployed Palestine refugees through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme.
UNRWA is committed to strengthening the leadership and management skills of its staff, many of whom are refugees themselves. On 26 July, the Agency concluded its pilot Leadership Initiative with a closing ceremony held in Gaza city. The Leadership Initiative was launched in spring 2015 and aimed at empowering mid-management and senior UNRWA staff through theoretical and practical sessions, including personalized coaching. Other initiatives are the Agency’s Mentoring Programme, an initiative of UNRWA’s Executive Office of the Commissioner-General with a view to establish, develop and facilitate positive and beneficial working relationships between mentors and mentees, UNRWA’s School Based Teacher Development Programme and the “together towards education leadership” project which focuses on the development of female education staff to encourage them to apply for higher positions. During the reporting week, two UNRWA Gaza staff members from the Health and Education Programme were also selected to join the UNRWA Commissioner-General’s “Innovation and Performance Award for National Staff”. The award is granted to talented staff members who have demonstrated dedication, innovation and creativity as related to the Agency’s service delivery. The award involves the opportunity to join a special four-day career development training course with the UN System Staff College in Turin, Italy from 12-15 September.
The UNRWA Gaza football team has represented Gaza’s refugee children in the Gothia Cup, a World Youth Football Cup held in Sweden from 18 to 23 July. The Gothia Cup is the world’s largest and most international youth football tournament. Each year, around 1,600 teams from 80 nations take part, playing 4,500 games on 110 fields. The Gaza refugee team won two matches in group play. From 26 July to 1 August, the Gaza team will also participate in the international Norway football cup. Over 1,660 club sports teams from all over the world will be participating in the competition in Norway; on average, 450 matches take place every day on over 66 different fields. The tournament in Norway is an annual event; the Gaza team has been a steady participant since 2010 with the exception of 2014 due to the devastating summer conflict. Last year - as well as in 2012 - the team won the competition were awarded a prize. The UNRWA Gaza refugee football initiative is generously supported by local Palestinian businesses and UNRWA. In addition, a pitch (oval) in central Gaza to train and exercise during the weeks leading up to the tournaments was provided at no cost.
With the blockade on Gaza now in its tenth year, and three conflicts having occurred within the past seven years, the conditions in the enclave remain unsettling and difficult for the population to bear. In the first quarter of 2016, unemployment in Gaza increased to 41.2 per cent, after it had declined to 38.4 per cent in the previous quarter, as reported by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). According to UNRWA analysis this would indicate that the 2014 economic growth was predominately driven by reconstruction efforts. Activity in the construction sector almost tripled over the past year (+ 190 per cent) as houses in Gaza started to be repaired and rebuilt. Youth (15-24 years) unemployment remains exceptionally high, reaching 61.6 per cent in quarter one of 2016, according to PCBS data. 80 per cent of the population in Gaza depend on humanitarian assistance; the vast majority of the people are struggling to make ends meet and provide for their families. Fishing and fishing-related activities have traditionally supported the livelihoods of thousands of families across the Gaza Strip. However, the ability for people to gain a living from this sector has been undermined as a result of fishing access limits imposed by the Israeli authorities along the Gaza coast. According to the Israeli organization Gisha, agriculture and fishing activity in Gaza remains 33 per cent lower than before the 2014 conflict. A worrying indicator for the depressed socio-economic conditions in Gaza is also indicated in a report earlier this year from the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) where it is stated that the number of working children (10-17 year olds) in Gaza doubled to 9,700 in the past five years, and in many circumstances these children are the main breadwinners for their families.
Through its Microfinance Programme (MP), UNRWA helps address the needs of the entrepreneurial and unbanked sector of the community, including low-income Palestine refugees and working class families, through providing opportunities to help them improve their living conditions and better provide for their themselves. In June, the MP disbursed 395 loans valued at US$ 640,000 in total. The number of active loans increased from 3,747 in May to 3,758 in June. Almost 45 per cent of the MP’s clients are female, and almost 13 per cent are below 24 years old. UNRWA launched the microfinance initiative in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in the early 1990s and expanded operations to Syria and Jordan in 2003. Since 1991, the Microfinance Department (MD) disbursed almost 400,000 loans worth US$ 440 million; in Gaza, the MP issued over 114,000 loans worth almost US$ 148 million.
THE UNRWA SHELTER UPDATE
A comprehensive shelter update will be provided in the next Gaza weekly situation report.
Regular protests took place during the reporting week, predominantly to demand the payment of salaries from the Palestinian Authority. Protests also took place to demand UNRWA job opportunities. One female protestor reportedly claims to be on hunger strike, requesting a job opportunity from UNRWA.
On 19 July an 80-year old Palestinian female was reportedly found strangled in agricultural land in southern Gaza. The police are reported to have opened an investigation.
On 18 July, a family dispute reportedly took place in Deir El Balah, central Gaza. Members reportedly used fire arms and one injury was reported. The police made several arrests. On the same day, a family dispute reportedly occurred in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Members reportedly used fire arms and one injury was reported. The police made several arrests. On 20 July, a family dispute reportedly took place in eastern Gaza city; members reportedly used edged weapons and ten injuries were reported. The police made several arrests.
On 19 July, a Palestinian reportedly entered Israel through the perimeter fence in central Gaza and was reportedly arrested by Israeli forces.
On 18 July, a tunnel reportedly collapsed in southern Gaza; one militant died and two others trapped in the tunnel were reportedly rescued. On 22 July, a 22-year old Palestinian male was reportedly found killed in Gaza city. The police opened an investigation.
On 18 July, a 13-year old girl reportedly died when a wall collapsed in eastern Gaza city.
On 20 July, a Palestinian man was reportedly injured when a bullet was accidently discharged from his weapon when he was handling it in Rafah, southern Gaza. He was transferred to a hospital and is reported to be in moderate condition.
On 22 July, a 12-year old boy died and another child was reported as seriously injured following a water tank reportedly falling on them in Jabalia, northern Gaza.
Also on 22 July, a 27-year old man reportedly died due to an electrical shock in Jabalia, northern Gaza. On the same day, a 52-year old man died when a car crane reportedly fell on him in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
On 18 July, a Palestinian peddler reportedly attempted to commit suicide by burning himself in a public space in western Gaza city after the police had reportedly confiscated his possessions. The police intervened and prevented further injuries after he reportedly poured fuel on himself. He sustained moderate burns and was transferred to a hospital.
During this year’s SFWs, each of Gaza’s five areas developed their own specific theme. In the northern area of the Gaza Strip, around Beit Hanoun and Jabalia, the focus is on mental health in children’s overall well-being, since this area was one of the most affected by the 2014 hostilities. 36-year old Faraj Al Haw is one of 20 psychosocial support animators (10 male and 10 female) in northern Gaza recruited to provide psychosocial services to participating children in the SFWs. In each of the SFW locations, these animators are conducting six psychosocial support sessions with around 25 children per session in locations in northern Gaza.
“Many children in Gaza still suffer from psychosocial problems. Every day when these children walk in the street they are still confronted with the damage caused during the last conflict, reminding them of their loss of homes and family members,” Faraj explained.
UNRWA is implementing different psychosocial support activities during the SFWs, such as drawing, drama, handicrafts and music workshops. Also the regular sports activities such as football or basketball, and popular games like trampolines and sack races, contribute to helping children release stress.
“Our main goal is to help children manage their feelings, such as sadness or anger; we also teach them how to release stress and give them the space to express themselves and build up their self-confidence,” Faraj commented further. While it may be too early to evaluate the success of the support sessions – as the SFWs is in its first week – Faraj explained that he has observed how children who showed anti-sociable behaviours started to relax after participating in the SFW sessions.
Before the implementation of the SFWs, all the psychosocial support animators were trained by the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme on different psychosocial support techniques as well as on how to teach life skills and maintain work ethics.
The SFWs last until 11 August. Gaza city’s theme is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to raise awareness on the value of natural resources. In the Middle Area the spotlight will be on democracy and child parliaments. The children will have a chance to feel what it is like to be the United Nations Secretary-General, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA or the Director of UNRWA Operations during simulations of UN bodies and agencies. Khan Younis is going back to the roots exploring traditional Palestinian food and dabkah. In Rafah, southern Gaza, children will have their summer fun activities in English.
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 19 July, one Palestinian was reportedly injured in such an incident in northern Gaza. On 18 July, Israeli forces reportedly shot several flare lights towards Palestinian areas causing an outbreak of a fire in the dry grass. No injuries were reported. On 20 July, Israeli forces reportedly shot at and arrested four Palestinian fishermen in northern Gaza. No injuries were reported. On 21 July, one Palestinian boat was reportedly damaged in such an incident.
On 22 July, approximately 50 civilians, including youth, held a protest near the perimeter fence east of Gaza city, expressing their eagerness to defend Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. Some of the participants reportedly approached the perimeter fence and three stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli forces reportedly responded with gunfire and tear gas. No injuries were reported.
On 19 July, six Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into central Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. On the same day, six Israeli bulldozers and one excavator reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into northern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
On 20 July, two Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into northern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. withdrew on the same day. On 21 July four Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into southern Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
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 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. More information can be found here.
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 was closed during the reporting week.
• Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. This week it was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 19 to 21 July and 24 to 26 July. On 22 July it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 23 July.
• 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 from 19 to 21 July and from 24 to 26 July. It was closed on 21 and 22 July.