The blockade on the Gaza Strip has entailed a tight control over all aspects of life since 2007, severely restricting the movement of people, as well as goods. This lack of freedom of movement impacts the Palestinians’ right to enjoy the highest standards of human rights and development, including the realisation of the right to health. Years of socioeconomic decline, conflict and closure have left the health sector across the Gaza Strip lacking in adequate physical infrastructure and sufficient medical training opportunities for health staff. Facilities are overstretched, and service is frequently interrupted by power cuts. These challenges further threaten the health of the population, which is already at increasing risk. According to the World Health Organization, of 1,883 patient applications for a permit to exit Gaza through Erez checkpoint for hospital appointments in August 2017, 55 per cent were approved, 3 per cent were denied, and 42 per cent were delayed with no response by the time of the patient’s hospital appointment. Among those delayed were 169 children under the age of 18 years and 76 people aged 60 years or older. Five cancer patients died while awaiting security permits to travel for health care.
On 4 October, Ambassador Ahmet Yıldız, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey and his delegation composed of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency and the Turkish Red Crescent concluded a two-day visit to UNRWA fields in Gaza and the West Bank in conjunction with Turkey’s responsibilities in the Advisory Commission (AdCom) of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as Vice Chair and Chair in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The Deputy Foreign Minister and his delegation met with the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl as well as other officials from UNRWA and Palestine refugees The objective of the mission was to gain first-hand knowledge of the the humanitarian situation of Palestine refugees in the region and explore together how Turkey can further support UNRWA in delivering essential services for refugees. In Gaza, the delegation received a briefing by the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, and visited an UNRWA school in Shujaiyyeh as well as one of the Agency’s 12 distribution centres in Gaza where almost one million beneficiaries collect quarterly food rations.
The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) implements initiatives to support both old and young people in Gaza. On 28 September, RSSP held the graduation ceremony of the “Radio Broadcast Presentation Skills” training which targeted female Palestine refugee graduates. The training is part of the Young Voices from Palestine initiative which promotes community participation of young people. At the end of the ceremony, certificates were handed to the graduates, and trainers were honoured for their efforts in making the training a success. From 13 August to 19 September, 15 young female journalists participated in the 50-hour training programme, implemented by Forsan Al Irada radio station, one of the community-based rehabilitation centres in Deir el-Balah, Middle Area, with which RSSP partners. The programme consisted of two phases. The participants first received training in podcasting and broadcasting, which was followed by the broadcasting of ten live radio episodes on youth and community issues produced by the participants themselves. Focusing on elderly persons, RSSP held a ceremony to celebrate the International Day for Older Persons under the United Nations theme for 2017 “Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society.” The ceremony which was attended by 85 elderly Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff included different activities such as songs, drawings, games and poems. RSSP empowers Palestine refugees, particularly the most vulnerable groups, by meeting their social and economic needs through community social interventions. RSSP provides a wide range of activities such as distribution of food baskets, regular assessment of refugees’ poverty status and eligibility for services through social workers, and skills training and capacity building mainly for women, children and youth.
Under this year’s theme “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”, the world celebrated World Teachers’ Day (WTD) on 5 October. This year’s theme echoed that of 2015 which followed the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) in September 2015 and reaffirmed teacher empowerment as a top priority in all education and development strategies. To provide quality, equitable and inclusive basic education, UNRWA endeavours to empower and support the professional development of its teachers through initiatives and training such as the School Based Teacher Development training programme (SBTD), Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance toolkit or the Inclusive Education and Curriculum Framework. The WTD is a good occasion to celebrate the vital contribution teachers make to education and development. To commemorate this day, UNRWA Gaza Field Education Programme held a celebration to honour over 400 teachers, school principals and their deputies, including a number of retired teachers, for their commitment to providing quality education to Palestine refugee students in Gaza. The ceremony brought together the UNRWA Director of Education, Dr. Caroline Pontefract, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack and Chief, Field Education Programme Mr. Farid Abu Athra, in addition to other senior staff and more than 500 teachers, school principals as well as heads of parents’ school councils.
UNRWA continues to implement infrastructure and construction projects that address some of the most pressing human development needs in the Gaza Strip. 22 infrastructure projects worth US$ 52.4million are under implementation while 16 projects worth US$ 23.1 million are currently awaiting implementation. In September, UNRWA imported 52 trucks of construction materials included on the list of dual use items that Israel considers to have a “dual” military and civilian purpose such as cement, white cement, steel pipes, steel reinforcement bars, raw materials and elevators for ongoing UNRWA infrastructure projects. Forty-five trucks were loaded with cement, two with reinforcement bars and one with white cement while one truck carried an elevator, one steel pipes and two raw materials.