In 2016, Palestine refugees across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) faced continued Israeli occupation, repeated violations of human rights and high levels of violence. In Gaza, the political and security situation remains volatile. Two and a half years on from the 2014 hostilities, which caused unprecedented destruction and loss of life, 6,750 Palestine refugee families remain displaced and repairs to tens of thousands of homes have yet to be completed. The land, air and sea blockade of Gaza will enter its eleventh year in June 2017. With opportunities for employment stifled by the blockade – the unemployment rate remains among the highest rates worldwide – almost 1 million Palestine refugees are dependent on food assistance, a tenfold increase on the 100,000 that required such support in 2000.
The situation in the West Bank is increasingly precarious. Palestine refugees continue to experience difficult socioeconomic conditions rooted in occupation-related policies and practices imposed by the Israeli authorities. These include a recent rise in the number of house demolitions, including punitive demolitions, as well as access and movement restrictions. In addition, Palestinians continue to experience high levels of food insecurity, with those living in refugee camps particularly affected. The lack of progress on the political track and the continued expansion of Israeli settlements only add to this burden.
In 2016, US$ 403 million was required to cover the cost of emergency interventions; however, as of 10 November, only US $148 million had been pledged, corresponding to 36.7 per cent of total financial requirements. In Gaza, funding gaps, coupled with the restricted movement of materials, 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. Cash-for-Work (CfW) programming was also scaled back; there is now a five-year wait list for temporary employment. In addition, the Agency was unable to implement school feeding and mother and child nutrition programming, as well as cash assistance interventions in Gaza. The impact of underfunding was equally felt in the West Bank, where the majority of emergency food assistance requirements were left unmet, forcing UNRWA to reduce its planned caseload from 155,000 to 46,500, reaching only those with the highest rates of food insecurity among persons identified as eligible for assistance. The CfW programme was similarly affected, while in the area of protection, community-led projects that addressed protection threats in Area C, the Hebron H2 area, and the ‘Seam Zone’ (areas between the Green Line and the Barrier) were left unimplemented. Emergency services provided by UNRWA constitute the minimum support necessary to meet the critical needs of Palestine refugees, with a reduction in such support having a potentially destabilizing effect on the oPt. The humanitarian problems faced by Palestine refugees today must be addressed as a matter of shared international responsibility.
The 2017 Emergency Appeal (EA) addresses the priority humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. It is guided by the following four strategic priorities:
Strategic Priority 1: Food-insecure households and those facing acute shocks have increased economic access to food through food aid/food vouchers, cash assistance and Cash-for-Work.
Strategic Priority 2: Crisis-affected refugees enjoy their basic rights to services and assistance, including education; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); and shelter repair.
Strategic Priority 3: Protection of Palestine refugees from the effects of the conflict and violence through access to services and advocacy, awareness-raising and the provision of mental health assistance.
Strategic Priority 4: Effective management and coordination of emergency response, to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and neutrality of programme delivery.
UNRWA continues to call on all parties to provide a just and durable solution for Palestine refugees in accordance with international law. Until this goal is achieved, Palestine refugees will continue to depend on UNRWA to meet critical life-saving needs, strengthen resilience and coping strategies, and realize their basic rights.