On 9 July, UNRWA opened the 2017 Summer Fun Weeks (SFWs) in the Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School (B) in Gaza city. The ceremony included different activities for children such as the traditional Palestinian Dabka dance, games and drawing workshops. The opening was attended by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, the two Deputy Directors of UNRWA Operations, Mr. David De Bold and Ms. Melinda Young, a number of senior UNRWA staff, representatives from local community organizations, United Nations sister agencies and non-governmental organizations working in Gaza. The SFWs take place from 8 to 27July in 125 locations across the Gaza Strip, including locations suitably equipped for the participation of children with disabilities, With more than 186,000 children having 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 as well as Students Camp a one-week camping experience which will be joined by UNRWA students from the West Bank – a rare opportunity for children to engage with their peers from other parts of the oPt. 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 2,340 short term job opportunities for mostly young unemployed Palestine refugees through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme.
This week, the UN Country Team in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) and the Humanitarian Country Team organized a field visit to Gaza to draw attention to the dire conditions prevailing in the coastal enclave and highlight the role of international assistance. The delegation which comprised diplomats from Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, Turkey and Canada was led by Mr. Robert Piper, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the oPt, and accompanied by community members from Gaza. Guided by different themes such as access to basic services and investing in Gaza, the delegation also visited GGateway – an UNRWA-initiated social enterprise building the capacity of young IT-experts and expand business opportunities. The visit complements a new report by the UN Country Team in the oPt which reviews the socio-economic status of the Gaza Strip after ten years of blockade and three rounds of hostilities and considers the projections of the Gaza 2020 report issued by the UN in 2012, the results of which led the UN to question whether Gaza would by 2020 have become uninhabitable. Speaking on the occasion of the release, Mr. Piper noted that “most of the earlier projections for 2020 have deteriorated further and faster than anticipated in 2012. Ongoing humanitarian assistance especially through UNRWA services, are helping slow this descent, but the downward direction remains clear.”
On 6 July, a delegation from Valencia regional government visited UNRWA Gaza Field Office. The five-member delegation visited a sewage outlet point in Beach camp, western Gaza Strip, where they received a briefing on the environmental situation in the coastal enclave. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarians Affairs (OCHA), over 108 million litres of almost totally untreated sewage are being discharged into the Mediterranean every day due to electricity and fuel shortages. The delegation also received a briefing by Mr. Issam Amer, Deputy Chief of the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme, on the programme’s activities and was updated on the general context in Gaza by Mr. Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza. At the end of the day, the delegation visited a Community-Based Organization (CBO) in Gaza city which UNRWA partners with to promote women’s rights and gender awareness. Returning to the Erez crossing, the visitors travelled through Shujaiyeh area in Gaza governorate, an area heavily affected during the last conflict, to learn about the situation in the area and progress made with regard to reconstruction.
On 4 July, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) distributed US$ 200 in one-off cash assistance to 1,669 abject poor families - those households which live below US$ 1.74 per person per day - in Gaza. These families are among the poorest and most vulnerable refugee families in the Gaza Strip. Usually the families use this money to cover education expenses, clothes, transportation and medicine, expenses which are necessities but beyond the extremely restricted normal income In June 2017, the Israeli blockade on Gaza entered its eleventh year: ten years of blockade have contributed to the continued deterioration of socio-economic conditions in Gaza. Today – like the families benefiting from the cash support - 80 per cent of the Gaza population depends on some form of humanitarian assistance. In the year 2000, the Agency provided approximately 80,000 refugees in Gaza with food assistance; currently the number has increased to more than 960,000. The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) empowers Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. RSSP activities range from the distribution of food baskets and the regular assessment of refugees’ poverty status and eligibility for services through social workers, to a variety of skills training and capacity building mainly for women, children and youth.
UNRWA continued the implementation of a portfolio of contracted projects, addressing some of the most pressing social infrastructure, environmental health, housing and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) needs of Gaza. In June 2017, UNRWA completed the construction of a Distribution Centre. The Distribution Centre in Rafah, southern Gaza, will provide food assistance to 80,000 Palestine refugees. 27 infrastructure projects worth US$ 61.3 million are under implementation while 19 projects worth US$ 26.8 million are awaiting implementation. For more information please consult the attached June UNRWA Construction Update.
Through its Job Creation Programme UNRWA offers time-limited job opportunities to Palestine refugees in different skill categories ranging from unskilled to skilled. The Job Creation Programme (JCP) is one of the most effective means to provide livelihood opportunities to people in Gaza, to support communities, to inject cash into the local economy and to stabilize struggling businesses. The JCP provides not only a source of income, but also restores dignity, self-respect and some level of self-reliance to thousands of Palestine refugees and their families each year. Demand for the programme remains extremely high against the backdrop of a collapsed economy and high unemployment rates with a current waiting time of over four years for a JCP opportunity. In 2017, if sufficient funding is available, UNRWA plans to offer short-term employment opportunities for approximately 53,193 Palestine refugees. In the first five months of 2017, UNRWA has created job opportunities for 10,860 beneficiaries through the JCP, injecting US$ 7.68 million into the Gaza economy. To address high levels of youth unemployment in Gaza, a sub-component of the JCP – the Graduate Training Programme – offers opportunities to recent graduates, a total of 2,312 in 2017 to date. For more information please consult the attached factsheet.
Activities in June 2017:
- The reconstruction of 152 totally destroyed homes was completed.
- Repair works for 75 housing units were completed.
Disbursement of payments
In total UNRWA disbursed approximately US$ 1.1 million for shelter assistance:
- For reconstruction: US$ 759,706
For repair works: US$ 310,563
- Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore, almost every day 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. Two injuries were reported. Various other protests were held during the week, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, to demand UNRWA and other UN services and to request the opening of the Rafah crossing.
An Israeli Skylark drone crashed east of Maghazi camp, central Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.
To highlight the psychological and social impact of child marriage and to raise community awareness and to influence decision-makers in the community, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) in cooperation with Gaza’s Women Programme Centres is implementing the “Girls not Brides, End Child Marriage” initiative.
Women’s Programme Centres aim to assisting the empowerment of Palestine refugee women, facilitate building of networks and strengthen their role and active participation in the community. RSSP supports the work of seven independent Women’s Programme Centres (WPC) in refugee camps across the Gaza Strip.
Child marriage is defined as a formal marriage or informal union before at least one of the partners has reached age 18. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) 23.7 per cent of the total married population in the Gaza Strip at the end of 2015 got married before age 18. A 2015 study on child marriage in the Gaza Strip by the Women Affairs Centre, a non-governmental organisation, suggests that the drivers of child marriage are socio-economic such as having multiple daughters, poverty and harmful patriarchal norms that support forced marriage between first degree relatives
Al-Daraj Women’s Programme Centre conducted a two hour session attended by 25 women who experienced child marriage, one of a total of 14 awareness-raising sessions during the initiative from 9 to 12 July across the Gaza Strip targeting over 500 men and women.
Lawyer Hayat Mahmoud told participants in the session: “Child marriage is a serious problem facing the community. It clearly violates human and children’s rights. Children lose their right to an education, to play and to choose”. Hayat added: “Imagine a 15-year old child married and having babies; it’s a child raising children.”
The session is divided into four parts: the psychological and social impact of child marriage, reproductive health, law and religious perspective. At the end of the session, a short video on early marriage was shown followed by a discussion. The confidential and small-group setting encourages the women to tell their stories and exchange experiences. “I married when I was only 15 years old and had my first child when I was only 16; this killed my childhood. I don’t want my daughter to experience the same,” Salwa, one of the participant in the session, said.
At the end of the campaign, a seminar will be conducted targeting community leaders, religious persons, and interested persons from the community to highlight the phenomenon of child marriage and recommend mechanisms to confront it.
“Many uneducated women who are illiterate because early marriage led to their education being truncated visit the Women’s Programme Centres. Increased awareness will not eliminate child marriage, but it will reduce it. Early marriage will be eliminated through the collective efforts of all organizations. I dream of life without child marriage,” Hayat also said.
The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) empowers Palestine refugees, focusing on the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. RSSP activities range from the distribution of food baskets and the regular assessment of refugees’ poverty status and eligibility for services through social workers, to a variety of skills training and capacity building mainly for women, children and youth. In total, UNRWA assists seven Women’s Programme Centres in refugee camps across the Gaza Strip. WPCs aim to empower women socially and economically, and enhance women’s participation in the community through legal advice and with skills-based trainings. The centres also try to assist illiterate women in entering the formal education system by providing education and literacy classes
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.
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.