This mid-year progress report covers the period January through June 2016 and is intended to provide an update on results achieved as measured against the full range of indicators included in the Emergency Appeal (EA) for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) 2016. An annual report covering the whole of the year will be issued in April 2017.
In Gaza, the political and security situation remained volatile during the reporting period. Two years on from the summer 2014 hostilities that resulted in unprecedented destruction and loss of life, it is estimated that 43,500 people remain displaced. The root causes of the conflict remain unaddressed and the land, air and sea blockade of Gaza entered its tenth year in June 2016. While there has been a partial easing of export restrictions, the impact on the economy and the population of the Gaza Strip has been negligible. The unemployment rate stood at 41.7 per cent in the second quarter of the year, remaining among the highest rates worldwide. Job losses, high food prices and falling purchasing power trapped 47 per cent of the population in food insecurity.
Palestine refugees in the West Bank continue to experience difficult socioeconomic conditions in addition to a marked escalation in violence since October 2015. They continue to be negatively affected by occupation-related policies and practices imposed by the Israeli authorities resulting from a rising number of demolitions, including punitive demolitions, and access and movement restrictions. In addition, Palestinians continued to experience high levels of food insecurity, with those living in camps being particularly affected. Plans for the relocation of Bedouin communities in Area C, many of whom are Palestine refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), have been advanced, contributing to a coercive environment and exacerbating concerns that these communities will be targeted for relocation, contrary to the prohibition of forcible transfer under international law.
The UNRWA Response
UNRWA provided emergency food assistance to 839,425 Palestine refugees in Gaza during the first half of 2016.
During the second semester of the 2015/16 academic year, schooling for 250,118 children was supported through the provision of essential learning materials. In addition, 8,110 new entrants under the ‘Special Children, Special Needs’ (SCSN) initiative and students identified with generalized learning difficulties were provided with a comprehensive medical examination. Of these, 5,374 received more in-depth assessments and were provided with medical assistance (visual/hearing aids, etc.).
By way of mitigating the effects of the 2014 hostilities in the Gaza Strip, individual counselling services were provided to 7,614 refugee children in Gaza, with an additional 7,124 children benefiting from group counselling and guidance.
Psychosocial counsellors operated in 257 UNRWA schools and health centres across Gaza. Public awareness events provided teachers, parents and students with enhanced knowledge and skills in support of student achievement, the development of life skills, problem-solving, gender-based violence awareness, and effective responses to a range of issues, such as coping with anger, stress and anxiety. Further, 726 education staff received an explosive remnants of war (ERW) risk training-oftrainers’ course that they then delivered to staff and students in all 257 UNRWA schools across Gaza.
The UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP) generated over 420,000 employment days in Gaza during the reporting period, equalling 2,947 full-time positions and translating into US$ 4,860,000 in wage income entering the Gaza economy.
An additional 273 skilled employment opportunities were created for youth and women.
A total of 8,508 refugee families whose homes were rendered uninhabitable by the 2014 hostilities were provided with transitional shelter cash assistance, while 3,398 refugee families received cash grants for minor repairs to their damaged shelters. In cooperation with relevant water, sanitation and hygiene authorities, the Agency also ensured a functioning water supply, wastewater treatment and waste management services, both within camps and in limited areas outside of camps. The Agency continued to mainstream protection interventions across all of its programmes in Gaza, including through the development of referral systems to ensure a consistent and harmonized programmatic response for those experiencing a protection risk.
UNRWA conducted two neutrality inspections at each of the 265 UNRWA installations in Gaza, with identified violations being immediately reported and addressed through appropriate channels.
During the first half of 2016 in the West Bank, 46,255 foodinsecure refugees benefited from the electronic food voucher programme and a further 34,660 vulnerable Bedouin and herder communities received assistance through food distributions. Further support was provided through the short-term Cash-for-Work (CfW) programme that provided cash subsidies to 4,462 food-insecure households.
Throughout the reporting period, six UNRWA mobile health clinics in the West Bank delivered 61,302 medical consultations over 1,293 visits to target communities that face access restrictions. In response to increased violence and displacement that commenced in late 2015 and extended into 2016, UNRWA prioritized interventions to alleviate the emotional distress of affected communities. To this end, the Agency strengthened the provision of psychosocial support interventions, particularly to children and young adults, and stepped up advocacy efforts, calling for action to prevent a further escalation of violence. To address multiple protection threats affecting Bedouin communities, including the risk of forced displacement due to demolition, settler violence and the loss of traditional lifestyles due to annexation by the Israeli authorities, 9,913 benefited from 378 group psychosocial activities, while 638 received individual, group or family counselling. As a direct response to residential demolitions, violence and/or damage to private property, 379 Palestine refugees received emergency assistance.
A total of 493 neutrality inspections of 245 operating installations were undertaken in the West Bank during the first half of the year. UNRWA also trained 320 staff members on the United Nations principles of neutrality, including on the use of social media.
Seventy-eight protection incidents were monitored and documented, with 72 of these incidents involving Israeli security forces (ISF) or settlers, including 23 incidents that resulted in the deaths of 26 Palestine refugees, including six children, and 14 incidents in which injuries to Palestine refugees were documented. UNRWA continued to raise concerns about violations of international law in the oPt in a variety of forums with a view to seeking accountability.
Notably, in accordance with the Agency’s Framework for an Effective Engagement with the International Human Rights System, the Agency engaged with relevant UN human rights mechanisms to address the rights and protection needs of Palestine refugees, including through substantive submissions and briefings made to relevant treaty bodies, UN human rights special procedures and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Impact of Underfunding
UNRWA would like to acknowledge the continued and generous support from its many donors that have allowed the Agency to provide emergency assistance to Gaza and the West Bank through the oPt EA since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000. For 2016, US$ 403 million is required to cover the cost of emergency interventions; however, as of 16 September 2016, only US $145 million, or 36 per cent of needs, had been pledged, leaving a funding shortfall of US $258 million. In Gaza, funding gaps have forced the Agency to dramatically scale back shelter repair and reconstruction efforts, leaving some 50,000 families either without a home or living in damaged shelters until adequate funding is secured.
The inability to support more repair and reconstruction efforts also means a lower percentage of employment in the sector.
CfW programming has also been cut and the waiting list for temporary employment is now over five years. In addition, during the first half of 2016, the Agency was unable to implement the school feeding programme, the mother and child nutrition programme, and cash assistance interventions in Gaza.
The impact of underfunding has been equally felt in the West Bank, where 85 per cent of emergency food assistance requirements have, to date, been left unmet, forcing UNRWA to target families experiencing the highest rates of food insecurity among those identified as eligible for assistance.
This means that over 18,000 families identified as food insecure outside camps will become increasingly vulnerable. The CfW programme has been similarly affected, while in the area of protection, community-led projects that address protection threats in Area C, the Hebron H2 area, and the ‘Seam Zone’, areas between the Green Line and the Barrier, have yet to be implemented, denying at-risk communities a vital support mechanism.
The emergency services provided by UNRWA constitute the minimum support necessary to meet the critical needs of Palestine refugees. A reduction in such support could have a destabilizing effect on the oPt. The humanitarian problems faced by the Palestine refugees today must be addressed as a matter of shared international responsibility, pending a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Palestine refugee question, in accordance with international law, including relevant General Assembly resolutions.