Gaza Situation Report 211, 07 November – 21 November
On 13 and 14 November, the UNRWA Advisory Commission (AdCom) held its second bi-annual meeting in Jordan in order to discuss key challenges and opportunities in the Agency’s five fields of operation. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl addressed the AdCom, stating: “In 2017, as we are all aware, Palestinians marked 50 years of Israeli occupation in June, 10 years of the blockade of Gaza and the conflict in Syria entered its seventh year. We cannot be indifferent to the pain and suffering of the Palestine Refugees. We cannot be indifferent to what occupation means in the lives of individual refugees”. Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, briefed the Commission on the current operational context in the Gaza Strip where restrictions related to eleven years of blockade, political uncertainty, dilapidated public infrastructure and a devastated economy continue to form the backdrop of life for 1.9 million people, 1.3 of whom are Palestine refugees. While the ongoing reconciliation efforts give a glimmer of hope for a better future, Mr. Schmale updated underlined that such positive steps should not distract from the need to continue providing in a predictable way UNRWA’s core education, health and social services. In addition he urged AdCom delegates on the shelter repair and reconstruction programme, the Graduate Training Programme of UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme, as well as on new developments in the work of the Community Mental Health Programme in Gaza to continue supporting UNRWA’s humanitarian work in Gaza, to advocate for opening up employment opportunities beyond the borders of Gaza and to invest into complementary UNRWA initiatives such as the G-Gateway project and the Job Creation Programme. The Advisory Commission was created on 8 December 1949. It is tasked with advising and assisting the Commissioner-General of UNRWA in carrying out the Agency’s mandate. Consisting of four members when it was first created, the AdCom is today made up of 27 Members and 3 Observers.
On 20 November, on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day, the Community Development Programme, which is part of the Gaza Field Office’s Relief and Social Services Programme, in cooperation with the Education Programme, launched an initiative under the title “Children Takeover”. Through this initiative, nine students took over senior positions at the UNRWA Gaza Field Office by shadowing senior UNRWA managers. Over the course of one day, the children experienced first-hand what it means to work for UNRWA and were involved in the planning processes, field visits and team meetings. Furthermore, the initiative gave these students a valuable opportunity to develop transferrable skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and effective communicating with others. The UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) promotes the development and self-reliance of vulnerable Palestine refugees – including persons with disabilities, women, children and the elderly – through a variety of interventions in Gaza.
The UNRWA Khan Younis Training College (KYTC) organized a graduation ceremony to celebrate the 7th KYTC graduation cohort under the title “Building and Developing” of students who have completed various technical and vocational training courses. The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale, attended the event together with other senior UNRWA staff and addressed the 441 graduates and their parents. The ceremony included speeches by the Principal of the KYTC, Dr. Ghassan Abu-Orf, as well as graduates. In addition, students performed the traditional Dabka dance and songs before receiving their graduation certificates. The KYTC is part of the UNRWA Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme, offering 15 courses of technical and vocational training to Palestine refugee youth in Gaza. Since its establishment in 2007, over 1,352 young Gaza refugees have graduated from the college. The training provides Palestine refugee students with opportunities to develop their skills in a way that prepares them to find employment or become an entrepreneur, thereby improving their livelihoods.
On 8 November, the UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP) in Gaza in cooperation with the Health and Education Programmes organized a new “Walking for Health” activity in order to reinforce the importance of exercising for children's and adults’ physical and mental health. The activity included walking three kilometres from Al-Fukhari Preparatory Girls School to Ma’an Preparatory Girls School in Khan Younis city. Fifty students aged between the ages of nine and fourteen, members of the local community, and school staff participated in the event. Prior to the walk, awareness-raising sessions for students and parents were held to promote practices of more healthy lifestyles. All participants in the event were awarded medals and the two school principals were given certificates in acknowledgment of their efforts. The CMHP maintains a network of 274 counsellors and 82 psychosocial facilitators in UNRWA schools, in addition to 22 counsellors and five legal advisors working across UNRWA Health Centres. They provide a package of integrated mental health and psychosocial support interventions, including life skills, structured psychosocial and guidance sessions, parents 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.
On the occasion of World Diabetes Day, and to highlight the importance of taking action against the rapid spread of diabetes among Palestinians in Gaza and to encourage screening for early detection of the illness, the Khan Younis and Beit Hanoun health centres conducted awareness-raising sessions and distributed information material about the different types of diabetes, risk factors and preventive care. Through its 22 health centres, UNRWA 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.
Against the background of the ongoing reconciliation effort, hopes remain for tangible improvements in daily lives in Gaza. The Rafah border crossing was opened for three days, and will hopefully stay open for longer in the near future. Sadly, there is to date no change in the supply of electricity, which remains a huge impediment to dignified life.
On 8, 9, 11,12,15,16, 17, 19 and 20 November Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. Two injuries were reported.
Palestinians held a number of protests during the week in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and in order to demand additional support from UNRWA and other UN agencies. On 7, 8, 9, 16, 17 and 18 November, Israeli forces positioned at the fence and opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.
On 11 November, a 27-year-old Palestinian man in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, committed suicide by ingesting pesticides, reportedly as a result of an internal family dispute. The man was transferred to the hospital subsequently died.
IN THE UNRWA LOGISTICS OFFICE: HARD WORK DURING AND AFTER THE CONFLICT
“Being a Palestine refugee myself, I am proud to work for UNRWA and to serve my community by managing the UNRWA storage of food and non-food items, facilitating transport and distribution of goods along with ensuring these goods reach their destination in good condition”, explained Jamal Al-Buri, a storekeeper who works at the UNRWA Logistics Office in Gaza.
The Karni Warehousing Industrial Zone is located inside the buffer zone - areas up to three kilometres into Gaza from the perimeter fence (44 per cent of the Gaza Strip) - close to the Karni Crossing which has been closed since 2007. The Palestinian company PIEDCO is responsible for operating the industrial zone and for renting out storage facilities for Palestinian companies and humanitarian organizations.
UNRWA through its Logistics Office maintains 17 warehouses at the Karni industrial zone for storing basic commodities (food items), education supplies, Summer Fun Weeks items, medical supplies, construction materials and emergency Non-Food Items (NFIs). Such storage capacity is crucial for carrying out the Agency’s regular operations such as large-scale food distributions and for its emergency preparedness.
Goods enter Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom Crossing into southern Gaza – the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip. From Kerem Shalom, UNRWA transports its humanitarian goods to two main warehousing compounds, one in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and one at Karni which consists of 17 warehouses. After goods pass all required quality and monitoring tests, they are further distributed in coordination with end users.
To ensure high quality, the Gaza Field’s Inspection Unit conducts between four and 22 tests per month. From the warehouses, goods are then distributed to different UNRWA facilities such as its 12 Distribution Centres, 22 Health Centres and 275 schools.
Jamal Al-Buri, a 58-year-old Palestine refugee, has been working with UNRWA for the past 30 years as a head storekeeper with the Gaza Field Office’s Logistics Office. “The work in the warehouses is very sensitive as my role is to store the goods in good condition and to keep the storage principles in mind,” Jamal said.
The Gaza Field Office’s Logistics Office supports all UNRWA programmes in Gaza to provide high quality services for refugees, for example by maintaining and storing more than 120,000 tons of different supplies per year, such as food items including flour, rice, sugar, lentils, chickpeas, milk, oil and sardine and non-food items like blankets, mattresses, school books and furniture. The Logistics Office distributes about 30,000 tons of food commodities to almost one million beneficiaries on a quarterly basis in addition to NFIs for affected families.
“I worked in Karni during the last conflict. It was difficult and dangerous to go leave our home but when my supervisor called me, I immediately said ‘yes’. I would have worked even if everybody else had said ‘no’, in order to support the Internally Displaced Persons in the collective centres. My colleagues and I worked long hours to ensure the food and non-food items reach the collectives centres,” Jamal added.
During emergencies, the UNRWA Logistics Office intensifies its efforts. At the peak of the 2014 summer conflict in Gaza, courageous UNRWA truck drivers helped to ensure that over 290,000 internally displaced persons, sheltered in 90 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip, were provided with life-saving food assistance, water as well as NFIs. Additionally, the logistics team continued with the distribution of regular in-kind food commodities to more than 830,000 persons and implemented an exceptional food distribution of flour and rice to all persons who were not included in the Agency’s regular food assistance programme.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from the growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees as well as the extent of their vulnerability and 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 2017 Emergency Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), 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 more in 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 1.9 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.