Gaza Situation Report 203, 18 July – 25 July 2017

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sport is considered a high-impact tool in humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts. According to the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), participating in sports enhances children’s life skills, including team work, working hard, showing respect, accepting losses and standing by each other, while providing them with a safe space for recreational activities and opportunities to participate in a cultural exchange and create new friendships. UNRWA Gaza recognizes that this is all the more important in a constrained environment offering little opportunity for children to exercise such as in Gaza. After a year of preparation, two UNRWA-supported football teams accompanied by six supervisors will travel to Norway and Denmark from 20 July to 9 August to participate in the Norway Football Cup, an international youth football tournament in Norway, and Dana Cup. The tournament in Norway takes place every year and the Gaza team has been a steady participant since 2010 with the exception of 2014 due to the devastating summer conflict. Over 1,660 sports teams from all over the world are participating in the competition in Norway; on average 450 matches are taking place every day on over 66 different fields. For the first time, a girls’ team from Gaza has trained for and is joining the tournament. By enabling girls to play football, UNRWA strives to break stereotypes and encourage sports activities for women and effectively empower women to take on a more self-confident and proactive role in the community. At the beginning of the next school year, new teams will be put together and begin training with the support of UNRWA sports teachers. In Norway, the Gaza refugee football teams will be strong competitors. In 2016 - as well as in 2012 - the team won the competition and came back with the cup. UNRWA wishes the Gaza teams good luck.

  • In July, UNRWA Gaza Field Office (GFO) started piloting its main computerized and unified community feedback management system. The system aims to increase beneficiary’s participation, accountability and transparency. UNRWA receives feedback from the community on a regular basis ranging from questions regarding eligibility for assistance to queries concerning Job Creation Programme eligibility criteria, Transitional Shelter Cash Assistance payments and food distribution rounds. This system gives beneficiaries the chance to send petitions and questions to UNRWA management directly through the UNRWA Gaza Field Office portal page. The system shall handle all received cases and process them to departmental focal points who shall review and reply to each complaint. The system will provide statistical data for the numbers of received, answered and pending requests, which gives the Agency the advantage of managing community feedback effectively and efficiently. The 25 departmental focal points received training on how to use the system and handle the requests.

  • From March to July 2017, UNRWA Gaza Field Office delivered a Social Media and Neutrality training for its area staff in managerial and supervisory positions as well as for international staff. Participants comprised 2,000 staff members from the Gaza Field Office and 35 from Headquarters Gaza. Additional sessions will be held at a later date for those unable to complete the training last week. The agency-wide training, which was conducted in Gaza by seven senior staff members, was held as a complement to the mandatory UNRWA online course, which all staff must complete before taking office. Topics focused on definitions, such as of the principle of neutrality, the Agency’s use of social media for public advocacy, social media guidelines and policies, examples of clear violations of the Regulatory Framework and the Agency’s approach to breaches of the Regulatory Framework. The training was dynamic using plenary, group and pair discussions, practical tips and scenarios.

  • On 18 July, two Belgian artists arrived in Gaza to join the UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) and conduct four art sessions for around 40 female and 40 male students divided into four groups. Each group is participating in a three-hour-long drawing session supporting their self-expression through art. The artists will engage with SFWs participants until 27 July. To build awareness about the situation in Gaza and show Gaza through the eyes of children, the drawings will be used to make an animation video entitled “Messages from Gaza”, which will be displayed at an upcoming workshop in Brussels. The SFWs take place from 8 to 27 July in 125 locations across the Gaza Strip, including locations suitably equipped for the participation of children with disabilities. With more than 186,000 children registered this summer, 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. UNRWA has also devised area-specific activities such as ‘Rethink and Recycle’ in Rafah, the ‘Expo Tech’ exhibition in Khan Younis, English SFWs activities in the Middle Area, Sea Messages in Gaza Area and the ‘Equity and Equality’ initiative in North Gaza. New activities include the UNRWA School Choir and the Student Ambassador programme as well as Student Camp. This one-week camping experience brings together UNRWA students from Gaza and the West Bank – a rare opportunity for the children to engage with their peers from other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory. The SFWs are one of the Agency’s measures to address the psychosocial impact of repeated armed conflict, blockade and dire socio-economic conditions in Gaza on children. Importantly, the SFWs create a total of, 2,420 short term job opportunities for mostly young unemployed Palestine refugees through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme.

OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

  • Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore, on four days during the reporting period. No injuries were reported.

  • Civilians, mostly youth, staged protests near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza against the blockade. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. Five injuries were reported.

  • Various other protests were held during the week, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to demand UNRWA and other UN services.

  • Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas on two days during the reporting period. No injuries were reported.

UNRWA RESPONSE

“MY NEW FRIENDS FROM GAZA DON’T DESERVE TO LIVE WITH RECURRENT CONFLICT”

The blockade on the Gaza Strip has entailed tight control over all aspects of life since 2007, severely restricting the movement of people, as well as goods. Ten years of closures and restrictions – as well as repeated cycles of violence – continue to negatively impact a broad range of human rights by crippling the economy, eroding coping mechanisms, and affecting the social fabric of Gaza. There has been a sharp increase in the reliance on humanitarian aid.

Practically, it also means that tens of thousands of children in Gaza and the West Bank have no opportunity to interact with their peers in other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory and do not know how they live. As part of UNRWA’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the negative effects of the blockade, UNRWA for the first time organized a one-week Student Camp in the context of the Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) during which 38 UNRWA students from the West Bank aged 12 to 14 years accompanied by 9 supervisors joined UNRWA students in Gaza for cultural exchange, building of new friendships and sharing of personal experiences.

Thirteen-year-old Ahmed Mousa, a Palestine refugee child from Ramallah, is one of the students who participated in the one-week camp that took place from 14 to 20 July. “I used to hear about Gaza on television and the internet, but sadly I could never visit due to the restrictions on movement. When I heard about Student Camp in my school, I became excited because I was finally going to visit Gaza” Ahmed said.

The Camp includes different activities such as visits to historical sites in Gaza, joint cultural activities, football and basketball matches between the students and leadership development activities. Students also had the opportunity to simply have fun together enjoying the bouncy castles and water slides installed at the SFWs locations across the Gaza Strip. Students stayed overnight in two locations: the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre for the female students and the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired for the male students.

“Gaza is more beautiful than I imagined. People here are kind and nice and welcomed us warmly. When I return back to Ramallah, I will tell my family, friends and neighbours about the beauty of Gaza,” Ahmed commented and added, “This week, I learned more about Gaza but also useful skills such as how to depend on myself. I’m very happy that I made new friends from Gaza who really don’t deserve to live with recurrent conflict. I worry that we might not see each other again due to the blockade.”

The SFWs are taking place from 8 to 27 July in 125 locations across the Gaza Strip, including locations suitably equipped for the participation of children with disabilities. With more than 186,000 children registered this summer, 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. UNRWA has also devised area-specific activities such as ‘Rethink and Recycle’ in Rafah, the ‘Expo Tech’ exhibition in Khan Younis, English SFW activities in the Middle Area, Sea Messages in Gaza Area and the ‘Equity and Equality’ initiative in north Gaza. New activities include the UNRWA School Choir and the Student Ambassador programme. The SFWs are one of the Agency’s measures to address the psychosocial impact of repeated armed conflict, blockade and dire socio-economic conditions in Gaza on children. Importantly, the SFWs create a total of 2,420 short term job opportunities for mostly young unemployed Palestine refugees through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme.

FUNDING NEEDS

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$ 295 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$ 425 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.

CROSSINGS

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.