Ready to Respond: How the humanitarian community is getting better prepared to face crises in Gaza

Recurrent armed conflict and ten years of blockade have resulted in persistent humanitarian needs and a shattered economy in Gaza (State of Palestine). Out of the 1.9 million population living there, 81.3 million are currently in need of humanitarian assistance](http://www.ochaopt.org/content/gaza-strip-humanitarian-impact-blockade-n...). In addition to the blockade, the Gaza Strip is regularly hit by natural hazards, which further weaken the territory’s infrastructure and agriculture, causing additional stress on the most vulnerable people.

To better face these regular shocks, the UN agencies, with the support of DFID, have stepped up their preparedness efforts in Gaza since 2014, together with NGOs and the Palestinian Unity Government.
The agencies, through the Ready-to-Respond Project, set up an emergency operation center, supported by the Ministry of Social Development to better assist newly displaced people, and established procedures for faster emergency interventions - amongst other preventive measures that helped to get the territory better prepared.

As a result, when the war broke out in 2014, WFP could rapidly expand its cash-based assistance to support more people displaced by the crisis. In regular times, WFP works with local shops in Gaza where beneficiaries can use a magnetic card to purchase relief goods, and when conflict erupted in 2014, about 30 more shops could rapidly be included into the system because they had been pre-identified. Other agencies such as UNICEF as well as NGOs were also able to utilize the platform, meaning that beneficiaries could purchase food, water, sanitation and hygiene items all at once using the One Card system.

Naheel, 40-year-old, who had to flee her home in Khan Younis when the conflict escalated in 2014, was able to use her card in one of the shops and purchase different types of food commodities, as well as water hygiene products. She recalls: “The programme addressed a pressing need, since we left our homes without taking anything”.

Today in 2017, this system is still up and running and both WFP and UNICEF use it to provide various relief supplies to people who remain forcibly displaced.

On top of the One Card system, WFP is developing a roster of shops throughout the Gaza Strip that have the capacity to provide essential commodities and that can be contracted within 24 hours for emergency assistance, saving time and resources. It also ensures that WFP staff and partners don’t have to take the risk of identifying new shops in the midst of unsecure emergency situations. At the same time, WFP is increasing its stock of equipment for its cash-based interventions: procuring additional magnetic cards that are ready for distribution, and programming equipment in shops like barcode readers and tablets so that the system is ready to be used.

At the same time, UN agencies are partnering with the Ministry of Social Development in Gaza to get their staff prepared in handling humanitarian operations on different technical areas. For instance, the social workers from the Palestinian Unity Government are responsible for collecting information on the number of people affected during crises and their most pressing needs. They guide people fleeing violence to seek protection in governmentdesignated emergency shelters and get nutrition and food support. These activities require skills on information management as well as knowledge on nutrition and food issues, and the agencies have recently designed two training sessions for social workers:

  • A training on the use of IT systems for faster data collection and sharing in on the ground, using tablets.

  • And a one month training on nutrition needs in emergencies that 200 staff working in shelters have attended and which included sessions on special needs of most vulnerable persons, food safety, food poisoning and basics on water borne diseases.

Issa, a member of the shelter feeding team said: “The training is very important, we feel more prepared now. It qualifies the shelter officials to do the right things when an emergency occurs” (December 2016).

For more information on the work of WFP in Palestine visit: https://www.wfp.org/countries/palestine

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.