Over the past year, the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) implemented the Vision Project. The project aimed to supplement and enrich the teaching of visually impaired children through the use of modern technology, particularly through tablet computers and the Voice Dream Reader software. This software allows blind and low vision students to use their tablets in order to ‘read with their ears’ – all text is read by a voice in Arabic - enabling them to use google, access emails, digital books and other online documents. Further, the curriculum with all its subjects is imported to the students’ and teachers’ tablets. To date, 225 RCVI students and low vision students in UNRWA schools have received and are already studying with the tablet computers; another 230 students have received training on how to use the new technology. Prior to the distribution of the tablets, UNRWA trained 152 RCVI and Special Education Needs teachers on the correct use of the tablet to be able to support the children. 34 students who have graduated have also received a tablet computer from UNRWA for their private use at home. To mark the end of the project, UNRWA organized a ceremony on 6 February at the RCVI; the celebrations included speeches by UNRWA senior staff, visually impaired students and donor representatives. The RCVI also organized a photo exhibition for this event. The Vision Project contributes to the Agency’s aim to provide innovative quality education to all refugee (and in the case of low vision children, also non-refugee) students across Gaza.
To address the most pressing health needs of refugee women and families in the Gaza Strip, the UNRWA Communications with Communities (CwC) team, part of the Gaza Field Communications Office, has produced a health talk show. The concept for the show was derived after community feedback on wanting more information for women about health topics. The show features health experts as well as patients/survivors and focuses on topics such as breast cancer, infections, family planning, and obesity, diabetes and nutrition. The script was developed with expert advice from the Health Programme and based on focus groups with UNRWA and non-UNRWA doctors, nurses and patients to gauge the most important health issues women face in Gaza and to understand their information needs and how they wish to receive information to prevent health risks. The show is currently broadcast on UNRWA TV and its associated You Tube channel twice per day, at 10am and 7pm.
Providing knowledge and skills is one of the five UNRWA human development goals. 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 lives and is a major component of strategies for child protection. Tens of thousands of students in UNRWA’s five fields of operation are affected by conflict, and hence Education in Emergencies (EiE) projects are gaining in importance. 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 crew, in cooperation with the Agency’s Education Programme, has written scripts, developed story lines and programmes, made costumes and trained children to develop a new educational season focusing on the four subjects Arabic, English, Mathematics and Science. The new season is based on a children-teaching-children approach and all videos also include awareness-raising messages on the danger of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). Promotional videos are currently broadcast and can be viewed here: Arabic, English,Mathematics and Science.
The UNRWA Gaza Health Programme held a graduation ceremony on 2 February for participants in its health mentoring programme. The mentoring programme was initiated in 2013 – and piloted in Gaza - in response to the increasing needs of Palestine refugees visiting UNRWA Health Centres. Through four rounds of mentoring sessions, over almost four years, the Health Programme was able to develop the managerial and leadership skills of 101 health staff members – including senior medical officers, assistant pharmacists, lab technicians and others - and improve their efficiency in serving Palestine refugees through 22 UNRWA Health Centres in Gaza. Additionally, the programme aimed at developing positive, stable and mutually beneficial relationships between mentors and mentees that would allow mentees to better plan, learn, collaborate and grow. Besides UNRWA senior staff, also the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl, who was working from UNRWA Gaza Headquarters during the reporting week, attended the graduation ceremony.
Through its Microfinance Department (MD), UNRWA helps address the needs of low-income Palestine refugees. In January 2017, the MD disbursed 445 loans worth US$ 580,980 – a 1.1 per cent increase from the previous month; 355 loans were closed. Over 42 per cent of the clients were female and over 12 per cent were 24 years old or less. The MD also provides a variety of training opportunities through its Small and Medium Enterprise Business Training Programme for professionals as well as students and fresh graduates; trainings vary from project management, fundraising and proposal writing, to job hunting, and gender awareness. In January, the programme conducted 15 courses attended by 300 participants. In 2016 overall, the MD disbursed almost 5,000 loans worth over US$ 7.3 million and conducted a total of 86 courses for 1,700 participants.
On 4 February, the world recognized the annual World Cancer Day. Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) – including cancer – are the leading death worldwide and in 2016 NCDs were responsible for more than 70 per cent of deaths among Palestine refugees. In Gaza, the blockade and the related collapse of the economy, sky-rocketing unemployment, repeated conflicts, as well as wide-spread food insecurity, poverty and lack of clean drinking water, have strongly affected the health sector which lacks adequate facilities, equipment and training opportunities for health staff; services are over-stretched and frequently interrupted by power cuts. Due to the blockade and severe travel restrictions imposed by Israeli and Egyptian authorities, many people in Gaza are prevented from receiving advanced health care. According to the World Health Organization, in December, out of 2,596 patient applications to travel through Erez crossing, only 41.7 per cent were approved by Israel, marking the lowest approval rate recorded by the WHO since April 2009. 91 patients (3.5%) were denied permits, among them 8 persons over 60 years, while 1,422 patients (54.8 per cent) received no response, including 323 children and 103 elderly people over 60. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was open for six days during the same period, allowing 424 patients to travel to Egypt or further afield for health reasons.
During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On one occasion Palestinian militants opened fire towards Israeli troops at the perimeter fence; the Israeli troops responded by firing two shells targeting a Hamas observation post. The post sustained damage.
On 6 February militants fired one rocket towards Israel. The rocket landed in an open area in Ashqelon Regional Council. It has been the first rocket launched towards Israel since 24 October 2016. Israeli forces fired dozens of missiles and shells targeting agricultural areas and Hamas observation posts in all areas of Gaza. On the same day militants opened fire towards Israeli troops near the perimeter fence. No injuries were reported in all incidents. Four Israeli bulldozers entered Gaza areas to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
Various protests were held during the week, predominantly in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; beneficiaries also demanded more services from UNRWA.
Further, civilians, mostly youth, protested along the perimeter fence with Israel, defending the Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. When some of the protestors approached the security fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and tear gas. A 16-year old boy was injured.
A dispute took place between two families; both used edged weapons and two persons were injured. One militant was injured during a military training as a result of an explosion; another militant who was previously injured passed away during the reporting week. Fires broke out in two residential areas, injuring a total of four persons and causing damage to the houses. Three more people were injured when part of the iron fence surrounding the Khan Younis stadium in southern Gaza collapsed. One Palestinian man with a knife and a screwdriver was arrested by Israeli forces when he tried to enter Israel through the perimeter fence.
ENHANCING QUALITY SERVICES FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES: THE UNRWA HEALTH PROGRAMME COMPLETED ITS MENTORING TRAINING PROGRAMME FOR HEALTH STAFF
To develop the skills and knowledge of UNRWA health staff, provide guidance and help them identify their own weaknesses and strengths to improve services for beneficiaries and make better use of available resources, over the past four years the UNRWA Health Programme (HP) implemented an internal mentoring training programme for its staff.
52-year-old Amal Al-Jaish is one of the staff who participated. She is a senior staff nurse in the UNRWA Saftawi Health Centre in northern Gaza and manages 27 other staff members, including nurses, clerks, cleaners and midwives. Amal is responsible to follow up on their tasks, attendance and performance, and to organize trainings for them if needed.
“The mentoring training helped me improve the relation between me and the staff I manage and to foster team work. As mentor I support my mentees in learning new skills and increasing their output and performance,” Amal said.
The mentoring training programme first started in April 2013, and by the end of November 2016, four rounds of mentoring training had been conducted for 101 mentees, including senior medical officers, senior staff nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, and medical officers at the 22 UNRWA Health Centres across the Gaza Strip.
Amal also added that through the mentoring programme communications within the team improved and “issues are more often addressed through joint efforts; for example, when we realized that we all – meaning midwives, nurses and doctors – provide different messages to women about health risks, we sat down and developed unified, written health messages to avoid confusion among patients.”
Through 22 centres, the UNRWA HP provides preventative and curative primary health care services to the vast majority of the over 1.3 million Palestine refugees in Gaza; health staff also provide clinic and laboratory services, along with personalized maternal health and family planning, in all health centres. To also fully integrate mental health care within its primary health care services, in the beginning of 2016, the Agency launched a pilot project in Saftawi Health Centre, in North Gaza. Over the past year the Saftawi HC screened over 4,700 clients and almost 500 patients received mental health care and psychosocial support by health centre staff.
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 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 1.8 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.
Rafah crossing was open on 31 January. It was closed during the remaining days of the reporting week.
Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. This week it was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 31 January to 2 February and from 5 to 7 February. On 3 February it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 4 February.
Kerem Shalom crossing is the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip and is usually open five days a week. It was open from 31 January to 2 February and from 5 to 7 February. It was closed on 3 and 4 February.