Gaza Situation Report 198, 06 June – 12 June 2017
In a statement issued over the weekend, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbühl marked 50 years of occupation of the Palestinian territory – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza – and called on the international community to take action. “The occupation cuts into every aspect of life for more than 2 million Palestine refugees, who represent some 42 per cent of all Palestinians in the occupied Palestine territory (oPt). Lives that should have been defined by opportunity have been reduced to endless despair,” he said in the statement. “How long will this tragedy continue? The occupation remains a key obstacle to the realization of a just and lasting solution for the seven-decade-long plight of Palestine refugees, and it continues to be one of the most salient aspects of a historical injustice that has cast a shadow over their lives since 1948,” for more information, click here.
Through 22 health centres, UNRWA Field Health Programme (HP) provides primary health care services to the majority of the 1.3 million Palestine refugees in Gaza. Health centres provide clinical and laboratory services, along with maternal health and family planning. During May a total of 9,354 women undertook breast cancer examinations at UNRWA health centres; 952 cases were referred on to medical centres for mammogram, and seven cases were diagnosed with breast cancer. Further, the HP provided almost 338,920 consultations and specialist services to patients. In addition, the total number of dental consultations stood at 46,336 and health staff provided 17,120 physiotherapy patients with treatment sessions. The HP also provides home visits and mobile phone consultations for refugees unable to access health centres physically, such as antenatal or postnatal women, certain children or patients with non-communicable diseases. In May, 714 home visits and 3,809 mobile consultations were provided. UNRWA provides services to monitor and control communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, meningitis or mumps.
On 13 June, UNRWA Field Education Programme distributed school certificates for the scholastic year 2016/2017 to more than 258,000 UNRWA students in grades 1 to 9 in 267 schools. The exam period for the second semester lasted for eight days after which students started the summer vacation with schools opening for the next scholastic year in August. UNRWA sees education as a major investment in dignity, human development and as a means to enhance stability for Palestine refugees. This scholastic year (2016-2017), there was 8,496 dedicated UNRWA teachers who facilitate the education of Palestine refugee students in 267 UNRWA schools in all five areas of the Gaza Strip, led by 257 school principals and 268 deputy school principals.
Providing quality, equitable and inclusive basic education is one of the Agency’s strategic outcomes as identified in the current Medium-Term Strategy 2016-2021. The Agency operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East, teaching nearly half a million children in over 700 schools across five fields of operations. In emergencies, education saves or sustains lives and is a major component of strategies for child protection. Tens of thousands of students in UNRWA’s five fields of operations are affected by conflict and hence Education in Emergencies (EiE) is crucial. The Gaza-based UNRWA TV satellite channel, part of the Field Communications Office, brings innovative lessons to affected children in all fields. Over the past months, the UNRWA TV multimedia arm, in cooperation with the Agency’s Education Programme, has written scripts, developed story lines and programmes, made costumes and trained children to develop the second educational season focusing on the four subjects Arabic, English, Mathematics and Science. The season is based on a children-teaching-children approach. During 2016, the UNRWA TV developed the first season of the Education in Emergencies project. UNRWA TV was established in early 2012 as a production unit and broadcaster. It broadcasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Besides humanitarian communication programming, it brings innovative educational lessons to affected children in all fields. Follow the channel here.
- Several protests were held across the Gaza Strip against the blockade. 29 injuries and one fatality were reported.
On almost all days in the reporting period Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of Gaza city, forcing them ashore. One injury was reported.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) positioned at the security fence in different locations opened fire towards Palestinian areas on two days during the reporting period. No injuries were reported.
A sit-in organized by an UNRWA beneficiary took place in front of UNRWA Gaza Field Office main gate protesting against the result of his housing assessment.
During the week under review, a 25 year old man attempted suicide by setting himself on fire.
UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme: Giving Palestine refugee children hope amidst despair
The 2014 conflict had a devastating psychosocial impact on individuals and communities in Gaza, adding to the effect already felt from almost ten years of blockade and previous conflicts. The shock of losing a home and family members, and returning to neighbourhoods to find them destroyed, erodes every sense of certainty and hope in the future. The unprecedented human, social and physical devastation during the 2014 conflict had a particular impact on children, and many remain in need of psycho-social support. According to the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP), children exposed to violence often express a loss of trust in others. Other common symptoms are eating disorders, nightmares or intense fear.
28-year-old Olfat Srour has been working as school counsellor in UNRWA Shujaiya Elementary School A, eastern Gaza for over eight years. “Many children in Gaza, experience intense fear and disruption, which result in psychosocial problems. My main goal is to provide them with a sense of safety and security, so that they feel protected,” Olfat said.
CMHP counsellors play a critical role in supporting Palestine refugees of all ages. The CMHP currently maintains a network of almost 280 counsellors and 80 psychosocial facilitators in UNRWA schools supported by a team of supervisors and assistant supervisors, as well as a Senior Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) Specialist. The programme also employs 23 counsellors and 5 legal advisors at health centres across Gaza. They collectively support children and adults, not only through individual and group counselling, but targeted interventions aimed at enhancing psychosocial resiliency and well-being.
Olfat also added “during my work I use different tools such as songs, videos and games to help children manage their stress.”
13-year-old Sara, a student in Shujaiya Elementary School A, had behavioural and sleeping problems after the 2014 conflict. Through writing and painting, Olfat helped her handle this experience. “I feel more comfortable, I like going to school more now, especially to participate in the school counselling activities,” Sara said.
Over the past years, the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) has moved towards the Mental Health Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) model to provide a more holistic and integrated approach that extends beyond counselling. Counsellors help ensure that the children of Gaza are equipped with the life skills to succeed in life, working closely with teachers to reinforce problem-solving, interpersonal relationships, support for their peers, respect and tolerance for others, and self-care and stress management. In UNRWA health centres, CMHP psychosocial and legal counsellors provide comprehensive support, mainly to women, many of whom have experienced Gender-Based Violence (GBV), through individual counselling, group support, and relevant legal advice. In 2016, the CMHP supported 4,217 adults and 10,218 children through individual counselling, with an additional 1,425 and 8,710 benefitting from group counselling. Through public awareness and education sessions, over 80,000 parents and community members received information on a variety of topics including coping with stress, positive parenting and supporting children in distress.
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. 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 1.9 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. (See chart)