Efforts of the international community to support delivery of development assistance in Palestine continue. The bi-annual meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) took place in New York on 18 September. Chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the European Union and the United States, this 15-member committee acts as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people as well as to support the peace process and underpin efforts to realize the two-state solution. The AHLC is the only international forum where both parties participate in a dialogue with the donors and the international community, including the United Nations. Summarising the meeting, Norway’s Foreign Minister urged concerted action to make further progress along three strategic areas before the next meeting: Fiscal sustainability, economic development, and Gaza recovery. While noting the significant progress achieved on Gaza reconstruction following the 2014 conflict, he acknowledged the dire circumstances faced by the population in the coastal enclave – 1.3 million of which are Palestine refugees – calling for urgent restoration of the electricity supply to Gaza to pre-crisis level, ensuring adequate funding to address humanitarian but also recovery needs and addressing the devastating water situation in the coastal strip where 95 per cent of tap water is undrinkable. For more information, please consult the reports of the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund as well as the summary of the report of the World Bank to the AHLC.
Under the title “Empowering Young Girls through Sports”, UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme in cooperation with the Women’s Programme Centres and the Education Programme started a sports initiative targeting 48 Palestine refugee girls aged between 13 and 15 years. The initiative aims to strengthen the social participation of young girls through sports, reinforce their self-confidence and promote their physical and mental health. For five months, all participants will receive basketball training sessions in Rafah, Nuseirat and Deir el Balah Women Programme Centres. To support the empowerment of Palestine refugee women, facilitate the building of their networks and to strengthen their role and active participation in the community, UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Programme supports seven independent Women’s Programme Centres in the eight official refugee camps across Gaza Strip. The Women’s Programme Centres support Palestine refugee women through cultural and recreational activities. The Centres also offer a wide range of integrated services to enhance the knowledge and capabilities of women, such as skills training and education.
Through 22 health centres, UNRWA Field Health Programme (HP) provides primary health care services to the majority of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip. Health centres provide clinical and laboratory services, along with maternal health and family planning advice. During August, the HP provided almost 346,795 consultations and specialist services to patients, an increase of 2.69% compared to August 2016. Further, a total of 9,460 women undertook breast cancer examinations at UNRWA health centres of which 130 cases were referred to medical centres for mammograms and one case was diagnosed with breast cancer. In addition, the total number of dental consultations stood at 41,048 and health staff provided 17,446 physiotherapy patients with treatment sessions. The HP also provides home visits and mobile phone consultations for refugees unable to access health centres physically, such as antenatal or postnatal women, certain children or patients with non-communicable diseases. In August, 913 home visits and 5,405 mobile consultations were provided. UNRWA also provides services to monitor and control communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, meningitis or mumps.
The UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) is collaborating with Nawa Culture and Arts Association to pilot a structured group intervention for elementary-level students experiencing more pronounced psychosocial difficulties. Based on Waldorf Steiner education techniques, the intervention uses structured arts, reading and storytelling, and physical play to promote a sense of normalcy and safety among younger children, strengthen self-awareness and esteem, and build positive peer relations. Ten counsellors are receiving in-depth training to enhance their knowledge and skills in supporting more vulnerable children. Based on lessons learned, CMHP is planning to roll out the intervention across other elementary schools in Gaza. CMHP maintains a network of 274 counsellors and 82 psychosocial facilitators in UNRWA schools, in addition to 22 counsellors and five legal advisors in UNRWA Health Centres. They provide a package of integrated mental health and psychosocial support interventions including life skills, structured psychosocial and guidance sessions, parent and community education, as well as individual and group counselling. These interventions remain critical in mitigating the impacts of the blockade, deteriorating socio-economic conditions, recurrent violence and restrictions on movement and access.
UNRWA Gaza Field Office continues to organise field visits for its partners and donors. From 17 to 19 September, a delegation from Al-Khair Foundation visited UNRWA Gaza Field Office and met with the UNRWA Deputy Director of Operations in Gaza, Ms. Melinda Young, who briefed them about the situation in the coastal enclave - under blockade for more than ten years now - and the Agency’s operations in Gaza. The delegation discussed with UNRWA school parliament members and received a briefing about the Education Programme in in the UNRWA schools in the Al-Daraj area of Gaza city and learned about the activities implemented by the Community Mental Health Programme in UNRWA Jabalia Preparatory Girls School A in the northern Gaza Strip. Finally, the delegation visited Beach Camp sewage outlet in western Gaza city to understand better the environmental impact of the energy crisis in Gaza: due to electricity and fuel shortages over 108 million litres of almost totally untreated sewage are discharged into the sea off Gaza every day.
On 22 September, the president of UNRWA’s Central School Parliament in Gaza Karim Abdel Baset Abu Kuwaik, a 14-year-old Palestine refugee, represented more than 270,000 UNRWA students from Gaza at a conference entitled “Giving hope to Palestine refugees: New Horizons for Sustainable Funding for UNRWA." During his speech Karim said “It is a great opportunity for me as a Palestine refugee from the Gaza Strip to stand before you. I’m speaking to you today on behalf of Gaza students who most of them have never left Gaza in their life. Please remember that we need your financial and moral support to achieve or dreams.” Karim stressed that ‘you must hear our voices’. The high-level meeting was organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Jordan and Sweden on the side-lines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. During the meeting that was attended by the UNRWA Commissioner General Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen and a number of member states of the United Nations, the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. António Guterres, in a video message, highlighted the importance of securing sustainable funding to UNRWA due to its vital role in serving the Palestine refugee community. “My recent visit to Gaza strengthened my conviction that UNRWA’s role is critical. We must live up to our responsibility to preserve a robust UNRWA and assure Palestine refugees of our solidarity,” said Mr. Guterres during his speech. For more information please click here.