On 6 December, the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres said following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel that, “Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides”. To read the full statement, please click here.
For the past decade, the Gaza Strip has suffered from a chronic electricity deficit, which has further undermined an already fragile living conditions. The situation has further deteriorated since April 2017 in the context of disputes between the de-facto authorities in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. The ongoing power shortage has severely impacted the availability of essential services, particularly health, water and sanitation services, and has undermined Gaza’s fragile economy, especially the manufacturing and agriculture sectors. In the already impoverished Gaza Strip, residents have learned to adapt to the fact that electricity is only available for between two and four hours a day. The shortages have defined how people live their lives: getting up in the middle of the night if there is power to run washing machines or turn on water pumps. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory, electricity blackouts in Gaza last between 19-21 hours each day. Families in Gaza are forced to spend a large part of their income on energy, whether on the meagre supply of electricity they receive through high voltage lines, or on the cost of fuel, generators and their repair.
A ceremony to mark the International Day of Human Rights was organized by the UNRWA Field Education Programme at Beach Preparatory Girls School A in Beach camp, western Gaza city, on 11 December. The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale, and other senior UNRWA staff as well as teachers, students and their parents attended the event. The event included activities such as songs, sketches and a drawing competition for the students. The parents also participated in an activity where they shared their views on gender equality and non-discrimination in the Gaza Strip, wishing for a better future for all. For over ten years UNRWA has been integrating human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance in its school activities. In May 2012, the Agency endorsed its new Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) Policy to further strengthen human rights education in UNRWA. This policy builds upon past successes, but also draws from international best practices and paves the way to better integrate human rights education in all our schools.
An online lecture with the Japanese Research Syowa Station in Antarctica was conducted via Skype to a group of 30 students from two UNRWA schools on 11 December 2017. Dr. Hirofumi Oe, the station’s medical doctor, introduced the life in Antarctica and the mission of the research station to the students. The lecture lasted for two hours and included a presentation with photos and videos followed by an open discussion during which the students raised a number of questions such as the impact of climate change on the world, and Antarctica in particular. Commenting on the lecture, Dr. Hirofumi expressed his pleasure in speaking with UNRWA students in Gaza, explaining the environment of Antarctica, and the purpose and activities of the Japanese research mission there. The lecture was a great opportunity to widen both the knowledge and horizon of students in Gaza. Freedom of movement outside Gaza is virtually non-existent due to the blockade; 90 per cent of the over 271,900 students from UNRWA schools have never left the Gaza Strip in their lives. The UNRWA Education Programme recognizes the critical need for students to understand and connect with the world, and hence always seeks to implement innovative projects through which refugee students can link to, and share knowledge and ideas with, their peers and others in the rest of the world.
UNRWA in Gaza celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 4 December 2017. The ceremony took place at the UNRWA Gaza Field Office compound and was attended by UNRWA Director of Operations, Mr. Matthias Schmale, Chief of the Field Relief and Social Services Programme, Mr. Asem Abu Shawish, UNRWA senior staff as well as heads of community rehabilitation centres that provide support to persons with disabilities across the Gaza Strip. The ceremony included speeches by Mr. Schmale, representatives from the coordination committee of the community rehabilitation centres, and a representative of persons with disabilities. It also included many uplifting performances by children with disabilities. The disability sub-programme of the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme provides various forms of support to people with disabilities and assists vulnerable groups of Palestine refugees through community social interventions. It conducts activities through 19 Community-Based Organizations, 7 Women’s Programme Centres, 7 Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres for persons with disabilities and 5 Youth Activity Centres.
During the reporting period, as part of his regular outreach visits, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Matthias Schmale, visited Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, and Gaza City. During the visit to Khan Younis camp, the Director met with a beneficiary family receiving Social Safety Net support due to their extreme poverty and visited UNRWA Abu Teama Preparatory Co-ed school. In his visit to Gaza city, Mr. Schmale met with members of the School Parliament and their teachers at the UNRWA Gaza Preparatory Girls A, and then proceeded to Tuffah Distribution Centre, a Community-Based Rehabilitation Centre and the Sheikh Radwan Health Centre. The visit was followed by a meeting with UNRWA Health Programme senior staff in which the Chief of the Field Health Programme, Dr. Ghada Al-Jadba, highlighted the programme’s achievements and challenges in 2017.
- On 5, 9, 10,11,12,15, 16 and 18 December, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.
On 5, 7, 9, 11 and 18 December, Israeli forces positioned at the border fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. Six injuries were reported.
On 7, 8 and 11 December, Israeli forces positioned at the border fence and fired tank shells towards open Palestinian areas and military areas. No injuries were reported.
On 11 and 16 December, an unexploded Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) accidentally exploded. Two injuries were reported.
On 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17 and 18 December, Palestinian civilians held a number of protests across the Gaza Strip against the American President’s decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11,12,13,14,15,16 and 17 December, Palestinian civilians, staged protests near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza against the American president’s decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. Two deaths and 258 injuries were reported.
On 7, 8, 9, 14 and 18 December, Israeli Forces fired missiles targeting militant training locations across the Gaza Strip in response to mortar shells fired by militants. Two deaths and 16 injuries were reported.
THE UNRWA JOB CREATION PROGRAMME: PROVIDING A SOURCE OF INCOME AND STRENGTHENING SELF-RELIANCE
The blockade of Gaza entered its 11th year in June 2017. The heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza , in addition to the three consecutive conflicts and the internal political divide, have not only crushed the enclave’s formerly trade-based economy, they are also heavily responsible for the sky-rocketing unemployment rates. Extreme poverty, food insecurity and confinement contribute to depression, and hopelessness. According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Gaza was at 46.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2017.Even more dramatically, 71 per cent of females in Gaza are reportedly unemployed. Through the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP), the Agency works to mitigate the impact of the collapsed economy and labour market in Gaza by providing livelihood opportunities for Palestine refugees.
41-year-old Palestine refugee Enshirah Al-Batah, who lives with her nine-member family in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, received a three-month work opportunity as a labourer in an agriculture project in Beit Lahia as part of UNRWA’s JCP activities.
“I applied for a position in the UNRWA Job Creation Programme seven years ago. I felt blessed and happy when UNRWA called to inform me that I got a three-month job opportunity. Every morning I go to work with my colleagues and start my work with hope and passion. We pick and package strawberries and prepare them for possible export,” Enshirah said.
The programme targets both skilled and unskilled workers as well as professionals. Priority is given to applicants from households who have been assessed as living below the poverty line of less than US$ 3.87 per person per day; other criteria are gender, age, skills, or location. UNRWA aims to provide 40 per cent of skilled opportunities to women and 40 per cent of all job opportunities to youth. UNRWA also offers thousands of opportunities for graduates from Gaza universities through its Graduate Training Programme.
“This is my first paid job ever. Due to my family’s difficult economic conditions, I received little education. I can hardly read and write so it’s not easy to find a job. At the beginning, it was hard to adapt with the new routine, but now I can’t wait until morning comes to see my friends. I feel more confident and productive,” Enshirah added.
The Job Creation Programme provides not only a source of income, but also helps to restore self-respect, dignity and some form of self-reliance to thousands of Palestine refugees. The money earned through short-term job opportunities is mostly spent to cover basic needs such as medicine, fresh food, or clothes.
“I use the money I gain to repay my family debts and pay for my daughter’s college tuition. My dreams and hopes are simple. I dream of having a stable source of income,” Enshirah added.
In the first nine months of 2017, UNRWA created job opportunities for 16,515 beneficiaries, injecting US$ 12.4 million into the Gaza economy. To address high levels of youth unemployment in Gaza, a sub-component of the JCP – the Graduate Training Programme – offered 2,799 (out of the total of 16,515 jobs) opportunities to recent graduates in 2017 to date.
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$ 316 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$ 404 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 reconstruction of their demolished 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 1.8 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 travelers, 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 travelers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.