Gaza Situation Report 216, 16 – 30 January 2018
On 22 January, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl launched the global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless from a school in Gaza, surrounded by UNRWA students and staff, The aim of the campaign is to mobilise sufficient resources to ensure continuity of services to over five million Palestine refugees in the Middle East following the US announcement of a dramatic reduction in long-standing funding to the Agency. As part of this campaign, UNRWA is aiming to raise US$ 500 million. At risk is the access to education and perspectives for the future for more than half a million girls and boys in over 700 UNRWA schools across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and their future; the provision of emergency assistance to 1.7 million extremely vulnerable Palestine refugees; access of refugees to primary health care, including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. And at stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community that has endured nearly 70 years of injustice and uncertainty. At stake are also decades of investment by the international community in the human development of Palestine refugees and efforts to achieving the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals.
The Education Programme in Gaza is UNRWA’s largest programme. On 20 January, 271,900 UNRWA students (140,347 boys and 131,553 girls) started their second school semester. In the scholastic year 2017-2018, 8,733 dedicated UNRWA teachers, who are guided by 261 school principals and 270 deputy school principals, provided education for Palestine refugee students in 275 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip. Notwithstanding the fragile political situation, lack of infrastructure and increasing financial constraints, providing quality, equitable and inclusive education remains of utmost priority for UNRWA and is one of the Agency’s strategic outcomes identified in the Medium-Term Strategy for the 2016-2021 period. Through its education programme, UNRWA contributes to achieving the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the fourth goal, which calls for ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.
On a quarterly basis, UNRWA provides two categories of food baskets to all eligible refugee families to help them meet their basic food requirements under two categories: An absolute food ration is distributed to households that are living below US$ 3.87 per person per day while a Social Safety Net ration is allocated to households persisting below US$1.47 per person per day. In both cases, the food baskets contain quantities of wheat flour, rice, sunflower oil, sugar, dried milk, lentils and chickpeas. In 2017, UNRWA distributed in-kind food assistance to over 993,045 beneficiaries during four distribution rounds. In order to define Palestine refugees’ eligibility for emergency food assistance, UNRWA social workers from the Relief and Social Services Programme assessed refugee families’ poverty levels through 91,444 home visits in 2017.
In 2017, UNRWA in Gaza created – largely with Emergency Appeal funding - job opportunities for more than 19,690 people through the Job Creation Programme (JCP), thereby injecting more than US$ 15.77 million into the local economy. Of the total jobs, approximately one third were awarded to women and over 4,991 to young adults between 18 and 26 years of age. Given the worsening socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip, the Agency has increased its JCP, from 17,060 opportunities in 2013 to 32,000 jobs in 2015. Due to lack of funding, the number of offered job opportunities decreased to around 21,000 in 2016 and fell below 20,000 in 2017. In addition to the thousands of jobs generated through the JCP, the Agency through its infrastructure projects generated 8,923 full-time job equivalents (FTEs) in the construction sector. In total, this contributed to reducing unemployment in Gaza by 5.6 percentage points. UNRWA also seeks to address Gaza’s exceptionally high levels of youth unemployment through its Graduate Training Programme (GTP). In 2017, out of the total JCP opportunities provided, around 3,323 graduates benefited from the GTP opportunities. Overall since its inception in 2001, over 32,600 fresh graduates were awarded with temporary job opportunities.
UNRWA in Gaza employs 176 doctors and 327 nurses who provide quality primary health care in 22 health centres (HCs) across the Gaza Strip, serving over one million patients on a quarterly basis. The incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension is on the rise in Gaza. While the UNRWA Gaza Field has the highest number of NCD patients Agency-wide, with a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of cases in 2017 compared to 2016, it maintains the lowest treatment cost per capita across the five fields of operations. In 2017 a total of 103,310 individuals were screened for diabetes and hypertension. In July 2017, the Agency, in cooperation with WHO, intensified efforts to integrate mental health and psychosocial support within its primary health care services. By the end of last year, thirteen HCs had completed this transition. The Health Programme in Gaza is planning to complete the integration in all HCs by the end of May 2018. Furthermore, in 2017, UNRWA in Gaza registered over 28,000 new enrolments in its pre-conception care programme. This figure is higher compared to the year 2016 (20,000) and exceeds the Agency-wide target of 20,000 new enrolments. 98.7 per cent of pregnant women made four antenatal care visits to UNRWA Health centres and 99.9 per cent of women attended post-natal care appointments within six weeks of delivery. The number of active family planning cases is gradually increasing with over 81,204 active cases in 2017.
UNRWA continues to implement infrastructure and construction projects that address some of the most pressing human development needs in the Gaza Strip. A total of 13 infrastructure projects worth US$ 44.87 million are under implementation while 20 projects worth US$ 29.17 million are currently awaiting implementation. In January, UNRWA imported 41 trucks of construction materials included on the list of dual use items such as cement, white cement, steel reinforcement bars, raw materials for ongoing UNRWA infrastructure projects.
On 29 January, the Local Staff Union (LSU) organized a solidarity walk in support of UNRWA’s global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless. The employees walked from the UNRWA office in Gaza City to the UNSCO office to hand over a letter addressed to the President of the General Assembly expressing concern about funding reductions and their potential impact. Approximately 9,000 persons participated in the solidarity walk. Describing UNRWA as one of “the most effective and results-orientated public service organisations in the world”. Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, warned of the potential implications of underfunding UNRWA and of politicising humanitarian aid for millions of impoverished people. “By turning out in such huge numbers and peacefully, you are giving a powerful message to the world," he told the crowd. While people stayed away from work for a few hours, UNRWA worked to ensure that essential services were maintained.
On 20, 21, 22 and 27 January, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.
On 18, 21, 25, 26 and 28 January Israeli forces positioned at the fence opened fire towards Palestinian areas. No injuries were reported.
On 16, 19, 22, 25 and 26 January, civilians, mostly youth, staged protests against the US President’s decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. 12 injuries were reported.
On 23 January, the UNRWA Local Staff Union in Gaza, in response to a call by the Inter staff Union Conference, organized a one-hour stand-in in solidarity with UNRWA and in protest against the US’ decision to reduce its financial support to UNRWA.
On 23, 24 and 25 January, Palestinian civilians held a sit-in in front of Rafah Crossing, southeast of Rafah area, demanding the opening of the border crossing.