29 May 2017
• On 20 May, as part of his continued outreach activities, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, accompanied by the Chief of the UNRWA Gaza Area Office, Mr. Majed El- Bayed and the Head of Communications Office, Mr. Souhail Al-Mashharawi, visited Gaza municipality and met the mayors of the five largest municipalities in the Gaza Strip - Gaza, Jabalia, Deir El-Balah, Khan Younis and Rafah. During the meeting, the Director and the mayors discussed the impact of the electricity and fuel crisis on the municipalities work and how it affects the services provided especially in the area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). Gaza suffers from a chronic electricity crisis, presently experiencing 12 hours daily power outages, which disrupt the normal functioning of humanitarian infrastructure and daily life, including health and education institutions and water and sewage systems, as well as the agricultural sector. As a result of frequent power outages homework is interrupted and exam preparation – students are currently sitting their year-end exams and the examinations for the high school-leaving diploma, the Tawjihi, are set to begin in June - has to be done in the dark or using unsafe sources of light such as candles. “Gaza has been experiencing a severe electricity crisis since mid-April, when the Gaza Power Plant went silent due to a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza over tax rates for the fuel needed at the plant” Said the Humanitarian Coordinator in his statement of 19 May. Read the statement here. Further information can also be found in the report by the Israeli organization Gisha, titled “Hand on the switch.”
• On 22 May, more than 262,000 UNRWA students in grades 1 to 9 have begun taking their 2016/17 scholastic year second semester final exams in all subjects. The exam period lasts for eight days, and there are three versions of each exam to accommodate morning, afternoon and, in the case of some schools, third shift students. Students sit the exams at the schools they have been attending throughout the school year. Students will start the summer vacation immediately after the last exam with schools opening for the next scholastic year in August 2017. On 8 June, certificates and incompletion notices will be distributed to all students.
• Under the title “A Better Future”, the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC) organized an exhibition of the final graduation project works of 45 graduates of the applied arts courses. The exhibition showcased graphic design works dealing with community issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and womens’ rights, pollution, favoritism and nepotism, street children, road accidents, Down syndrome, children’s rights and drug abuse. In addition, the exhibition highlighted the work of fashion design students ranging from wedding dresses to embroidery and children’s clothes. The UNRWA GTC was established in 1953 with a vision to provide youth refugees with skills-based training and assist them in finding meaningful employment opportunities, increase their chances in the local job market and help develop the local economy. Currently the Agency provides training opportunities for a total of 1,729 youth in both Vocational Training Centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. To date, more than 22,000 students have completed the UNRWA Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.
• Seven years ago, in 2010 UNRWA established Area Offices in all five governorates in the Gaza Strip, headed by a Chief of Area Office (CAO). CAOs have an UNRWA representative function at the area level. They liaise with governmental authorities, refugee community representatives and humanitarian organizations on the general application of Agency policies and programmes, as well as other issues of interest to the Agency such as the security situation as it affects UNRWA operations, and any incidents affecting the humanitarian situation of Palestine refugees. In April, the Chief of Area Office (Gaza, Mr. Majed El-Bayed conducted different activities to further the above objectives. Mr. El-Bayed conducted a lessons learned exercise with emergency response officers, UNRWA Area Relief and Social Services Officers (ARSSOs) and shelter focal points regarding the process of distributing winterization assistance in 2016/17 and he received the Humanitarian Coordinator at the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), Mr. Robert Piper.
• On 15 and 22 May Israeli patrol boats fired towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.
• A sit-in in took place in front of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation office in Gaza against the decision to close the organization’s office in Gaza.
• Several protests were held across the Gaza Strip against the blockade and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike inside Israeli prisons. Some of the protesters approached the security fence and threw stones towards Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) who observe posts. The IDF responded with gunfire and tear gas. Five injuries were reported and ten persons suffered from gas inhalation.
• National and Islamic factions and Hamas Movement staged demonstrations to denounce the US President Trump's statement against Hamas, during his visit to the Saudi Arabia Kingdom.
• The owners of factories damaged during the 2014 conflict held a sit-in in front of the Ministry of National Economy in Gaza city protesting delays in the reconstruction process.
Fourteen-year-old, Sojoud Taha, trying to fix her head scarf at Nuseirat Preparatory Girls School A, central Gaza.
© 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
“I was born with one arm. In my first grade, I had a prosthetic arm to help me function better at school. However, after the sixth grade and as I grow up, the artificial limb didn’t fit anymore. I had to take it off. This made my life much harder as for one whole year, I was unable to play any of my favourite sports or hobbies,”Sojoud commented. “Now with the new arm, I can enjoy playing basketball, swimming. I also feel more self-confident and self-reliant,” she added.
Thanks to fruitful cooperation between the UNRWA Education and Health Programme, Sojoud was provided with a new artificial left arm to enable her to perform her daily tasks with higher functionality and comfort. “When the school principal told me about it, I couldn’t believe it; I jumped for joy and happiness and couldn’t wait to share this life-changing news with my family and friend. Finally, I can pursue my life, passions and dreams fearlessly, and face challenges more prepared and more confident,” she commented.
In the current school year (2016/2017), there are 6006 students (3608 boys and 2398 girls) with disabilities in UNRWA schools in Gaza Strip. These students live with various major motor, fine motor, visual, hearing, health, speech and other impairments. Nonetheless, they are enthusiastic to learn and participate in traditional schooling. Students with special needs are encouraged to attend UNRWA schools. In cases where more specialized support is needed, the Agency refers students to Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRCs). UNRWA currently supports seven CBRCs across the Gaza Strip, providing services to persons with disabilities. Further, the Agency directly supports 500 visually impaired children through the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired in Gaza city. UNRWA’s approach to inclusive education is aligned with the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, wherein Sustainable Development Goal number four is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning.
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. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget in 2017. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
Following the 2014 conflict, US$ 257 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$ 463 million. UNRWA urgently appeals to donors to generously contribute to its emergency shelter programme to provide displaced Palestine refugees in Gaza with rental subsidies or cash assistance to undertake repair works and reconstruction of their damaged homes.
As presented in UNRWA’s occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Emergency Appeal for 2017, the Agency is seeking US$ 402 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt.
The Gaza portion of the Emergency Appeal amounts to US$ 355 million for 2017, to address protracted, large scale humanitarian needs. Read more in the oPt Emergency Appeal for 2017.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.9 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 travellers, 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 travellers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.