Gaza Situation Report 43, 20 August 2014

UPDATE AT 16:30

  • Dramatic increase in IDP numbers due to military escalation: 261,341 displaced in 82 UNRWA shelters.
  • According to preliminary information by the Protection Cluster 17 killed in the past 24 hours. The cumulative Palestinian death toll climbed to 1,999, including 467 children and 244 women. Over the course of the military escalation, 66 Israelis were killed, including 64 soldiers, two civilians plus one foreign national.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Israel and Hamas blame each other as rockets and airstrikes prematurely ended the 24 hours truce which was to expire at midnight local time on 19 August. Thousands of Palestinians fled overnight to UNRWA schools in search for safety. Registration is still ongoing, but numbers might be as high as 250,000. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned in the strongest terms the breach of the Egyptian brokered humanitarian ceasefire. He urged the parties to reach an immediate understanding on a durable ceasefire which also addresses the underlying issues afflicting Gaza. Pierre Krähenbühl stated that it was time to “rethink the Gaza paradigm that has seen thousands of civilians killed and injured and wreaked so much destruction, in a pattern of violence that erupts every two or three years.” He also reiterated his call for respect of international law and lasting peace in the region, stating that “Gaza must have its freedom; freedom of access, freedom of movement, freedom to import and export, freedom from aid dependency.”
  • UNRWA, in cooperation with WFP and the Ministry of Social Affairs, is currently distributing in-kind food aid to the entire population of the Gaza Strip. There are three different mechanisms for food aid: the regular in-kind commodities distributed by UNRWA and WFP on a quarterly basis, the exceptional food distribution of flour and rice to all not currently receiving this regular assistance from the two agencies, and the in-kind food commodities provided to shelters. For food aid provision to shelters alone, UNRWA, excluding the WFP contribution, spends some 500,000 USD per day. The price the international community is paying to assist those who are paying for the consequences of this man-made crisis is very high.
  • Humanitarian operations are at stake and early recovery planning is paralyzed. Unexploded ordnance clearance is set back to the start, which will have a knock-on effect to UNRWA assessments of installations and shelters. Dwellings were damaged or destroyed overnight, and one school in Nuseirat sustained damage. With no end in sight to current hostilities, UNRWA is preparing for the continued provision of humanitarian aid to the displaced. The Agency will put into practice more sustainable solutions for Palestinians forced to stay in UNRWA schools, for example installing prefabricated external showers in addition to showers installed in the bathrooms. Schools are not designed to shelter displaced for a prolonged period of time, but other shelter solutions, for example tents or trailers are not viable options for Gaza.
  • UNRWA staff will continue to work tirelessly to provide adequate protection and aid including to the most vulnerable, such as the newborns and their mothers, the disabled and elderly which are being cared for by the health teams in the shelters. The Agency is particularly concerned that out of the 417 newborn children, who started their lives as IDPs in UNRWA schools, at least two were born in the overcrowded classrooms. Pregnant mothers were too scared to go to the hospitals for delivery.
  • The new school year was to start on Sunday 24 August, with UNRWA expecting enrollment of over 235,000 students in its schools. With the resumption of hostilities and the breakdown of the Cairo talks between Israel and Palestine, a return to formal education is currently impossible. In line with global education practices and building on its experiences in Gaza and Syria whilst making use of pre-existing structures, such as the UNRWA TV and the Integrated Learning Programme which is based on computer labs in schools, UNRWA will put into practice an alternative education system. The UNRWA education infrastructure has been severely damaged and requires extensive rehabilitation and refurbishment of all school buildings. Schools currently used as shelters will require varying degrees of rehabilitation in order to be ready for normal schooling, at least some three weeks subsequent to the clearance of unexploded ordnance through UNMAS and IDPs moving out of the schools. UNRWA’s 8,000 teachers are, like all Palestinians, personally affected by the war and have lost loved ones, their home, shelter the displaced, or volunteer to help those in need. More than 900 education staff are working round the clock in the shelters and are in a state of emotional and physical exhaustion. The children, which are supposed to learn the Palestinian Authority curriculum and a dedicated Human Rights curriculum developed by UNRWA, have been severely affected by their experiences and as such need to be supported in the transition back to school. Discussions held with children and parents have revealed the profound impact of the conflict on the children’s wellbeing. The level of fear and anxiety will impact on their ability to resume normal schooling, which includes a demanding curriculum and normally frequent exams. Security remains a concern particularly with regards to the presence of explosive remnants of war and the life threatening risks they imply for children. Insecurity in their homes and precarious living conditions will need to be addressed.

GENERAL

Past 24 hours: Reportedly, since approximately 15:50hrs yesterday afternoon and until 08:00hrs this morning, there were 62 rockets and 5 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that Israel fired 85 air-to-ground missiles, 20 navy shells and 67 tank shells into Gaza. 8 houses were reportedly bombarded.

UNRWA RESPONSE

If you would meet Dr. Mohammed El Aydi in his tiny office in Khan Younis, he would propably go out of his way to serve you the best food in the Gaza Strip. You would have to beg him to stick to tea and felafel whilst he would take the time to tell you all about UNRWA in Khan Younis, conflict resolution, social justice and community participation. He would be very interested in your views on solving community disputes or the electoral system in wherever you come from, and you could, if you’d like, ask him about sociologist x or the hairstyle in Gaza in the 1960s. He would be able to tell you all about it. Should you be lucky enough to meet him a second time in your life, he would still remember your name and would tell you how much he missed having you around.

Dr. El Aydi is one of five UNRWA Chief Area Officers in the Gaza Strip. He is responsibe for UNRWA operations in Khan Younis. There is no time and place now to speak about anything else than the war and how he and his team are doing everything they can to support those in need whilst being victims of the war themselves.

Had you visited him this week he would have taken you along to an UNRWA school in Khuza’a. With its palm fringed roads and villas, Khuza’a used to be one of the very few pleasant locations in the Gaza Strip. Close to the fence, the tiny town was occupied by Israel and shelled to ruins over the past month. The UNRWA school you would have visited, Elementary A & B Coed, is one of the Agency’s 59 school buildings that had to keep its doors closed to the displaced as Khuza’a is not safe.

A couple of days ago, the mine clearers searched for unexploded ordnance in what is left of the building and cleared it for UNRWA staff to enter. Dr. El Aydi would have told you he knows the school inside out. He used to come here as a small child with his father to eat water melon in the nearby field. His father wanted to show him the Eastern end of the 365 qkm coastal enclave, and then he would have shown you the fence just a couple of hundred meters away.

There is not much left of the school. An entire wing is missing and the traces of tanks go right through a former classroom. In the midst of the summer heat, amidst the rubble, and whilst staring at what is left of the classrooms, you would have seen a book on the floor, covered in dirt and broken glass. You would have picked it up. Dr. El Aydi would have told you this is the book of Roaa Nasser Qodah who was studying in the 5th grade in the school. He would have translated the Arabic poems, handwritten by an 11 year old, for you:

Dr. El Aydi would have told you he is going to keep the book, that he will search for the little girl and return it to her. He would have told you he will read out the poem once the school opens its doors again, in 1 or 2 years, or maybe more, as there is no construction material in Gaza. He would have told you that he will still be around because there is nowhere to go from here. You wouldn‘t have to ask any further, because by then you would have understood what living without freedom means.
- 14 of 21 health centers were operating. 94 per cent of the staff reported to work, and 17,132 patients were served on 19 August. Thanks to UNRWA deploying dedicated health teams to the shelters, the proportion of IDPs coming to UNRWA health centers decreased from a peak of 6,002 on 3 August (representing 34.4 per cent of a total of 17,433) to 2,216 on 19 August (representing 12.9 per cent). The health teams also continue their daily surveillance reports, helping UNRWA to identify and address health issues of concern per area and shelter. Lice, scabies and diarrhea remain of particular concern.
- Within the framework of the hygiene and water campaign, IDP committees continue working with UNRWA staff in improving general cleanliness in the shelters. Many shelters have established a system whereby each classroom has an IDP focal point responsible for cleanliness.
- Under its Community Mental Health Program (CMHP), 91 UNRWA counselors reported to the shelters on 19 August. So far the CMHP has provided 15,622 sessions encompassing mental health awareness, psychosocial support for 130,833 parents (74,138 women and 56,695 men) and recreational and animation activities to 147,246 children (75,175 girls and 72,071 boys). CMHP also coordinated and supervised the implementation of 3,929 sessions by partners, covering 21,613 adult IDP’s (14,781 women and 6,832 men) and 108,146 children (53,567 boys and 54,579 girls). - UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, trucked 783 cubic metres of potable water to the shelters. This brings the potable water supply to approximately 3 litres per person per day across the Gaza Strip, thus meeting the international minimum standards. This amount excludes bottled water delivered to the shelters in areas where the capacity of water suppliers is insufficient, such as Gaza and North where the average amount remained under 3 liters per person per day. Overall, the amount of water trucked is at its peak and UNRWA is ready to address increasing needs. In addition to drinking water, 938 cubic meters of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the shelters.
- In partnership with WFP and the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNRWA continued the exceptional food distribution to all families not currently receiving regular food aid from the two agencies. Since 11 August 81,420 of the eligible 143,000 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice. A total of 8,306 rations were distributed yesterday in all 12 UNRWA distribution centres.
- UNRWA delivered 17 truckloads of non food items as well as 56 truckloads of food to shelters in cooperation with WFP.
- UNRWA’s regular food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. Food rations were provided to 7,112 families through all 12 UNRWA distribution centers.
- UNRWA also continued to provide its logistics capacity to supply fuel to municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities through the WASH and Health clusters (led by UNICEF and WHO). 4,000 liters were delivered to UNICEF for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and 23,984 liters were provided to WHO.
- Of UNRWA’s Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Department, 288 staff, representing 85 per cent of the permanent sanitation staff, reported to work. Together with 395 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 321 tonnes of waste from all Gaza camps. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations.
- Training of UNRWA field staff – that is mainly relief staff and engineers – on explosive remnants of war continued yesterday in Khan Younis (picture below). Due to the prevailing security situation, the training will be discontinued for now.

SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS

Reportedly, there were 62 rockets and 5 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 85 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza in addition to 20 navy shells. 67 tank shells were fired from the fence into populated areas. Reportedly, 8 houses were bombarded.

UNRWA INSTALLATIONS

Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 109 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014.

FUNDING NEEDS

More information on the revised flash appeal can be found here.

CROSSINGS

  • The Rafah crossing was open.
  • The Erez crossing was open for internationals and humanitarian cases.
  • The Kerem Shalom crossing was open.