Palestine refugees across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) continued to face daily challenges as a result of Israeli occupation, in which respect for dignity, welfare and rights under international law are at repeated risk; and high levels of violence, with individual, familial and community resilience stretched to the limit. In Gaza, the political and security situation remained volatile as the land, air and sea blockade entered its twelfth year in 2018. Socioeconomic factors associated with the blockade, the lack of employment opportunities, political uncertainty and a chronic energy crisis continue to have significant repercussions on the lives of Palestine refugees. The unemployment rate in Gaza remains among the highest worldwide; food insecurity remains high and almost one million Palestine refugees in Gaza depend on UNRWA emergency food assistance to meet their basic food needs. The Great March of Return (GMR) demonstrations, which started on 30 March 2018, have seen a high number of casualties, in particular among young Palestinians. This has put increased pressure on an already overstretched health system, weakened by recurrent shortages of medical supplies and equipment, chronic electricity outages and a salary crisis affecting government employees.
The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains fragile. Palestine refugees continue to experience difficult socioeconomic conditions rooted in occupationrelated policies and practices imposed by the Israeli authorities.
These include a recent increase in restrictions on access to land and property, in particular for Palestine refugees living in Area C and East Jerusalem, in addition to continued movement and access constraints, and shelter demolitions under a restrictive and discriminatory planning regime. The hardship faced by Palestine refugees is likely to increase following the reduction in social transfer programmes provided by humanitarian actors in the West Bank, including UNRWA. The lack of progress on the political track, coupled with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, only add to this burden.
In 2018, US$ 398.8 million was required to cover the cost of emergency interventions in the oPt; however, as of 31 October, only US$ 112.8 million had been pledged, corresponding to 28.2 per cent of total financial requirements. UNRWA would like to acknowledge the continued and generous support from its many donors that have enabled continued provision of emergency assistance to Gaza and the West Bank in challenging financial circumstances. The unprecedented financial crisis faced by the Agency at the beginning of 2018 had a major impact on UNRWA emergency operations in the oPt, forcing the Agency to take mitigating measures and implement changes to some of its emergency interventions.
In order to avoid interruptions in the provision of critical humanitarian assistance, other interventions had to be scaled back or discontinued, such as, in Gaza, the community mental health and job-creation programmes, as well as rental subsidies to families made homeless as a result of the 2014 hostilities; and, in the West Bank, cash-for-work (CfW)1 community mental health and mobile health interventions. In both fields, protection capacities were reduced and adjusted to a constrained budget. Changes introduced in 2018 will be maintained in the 2019 Emergency Appeal (2019 EA).
In 2019, in order to meet the essential needs of the community and preserve vital services, UNRWA will continue to prioritize critical humanitarian interventions and services in its emergency appeal, in line with the approach adopted by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the oPt.
In Gaza, the Agency will continue to provide emergency food assistance to over one million Palestine refugees; and will support vulnerable refugee households through the creation of short-term employment opportunities, as part of a reduced job-creation programme. Emergency health will be provided with a focus on addressing the increased health needs arising from the Great March of Return; Education in Emergencies (EiE) activities will support more than 278,000 students in UNRWA schools across Gaza; and mental health and psychosocial support will no longer be provided through a standalone programme. However, critical activities targeting vulnerable adults and children will continue to be embedded in the Agency’s education and health programmes.
In order to make the most efficient use of scarce resources, interventions such as emergency shelter and shelter repair and summer fun weeks will not be included in the 2019 EA, whilst essential protection activities and critical WASH interventions will be maintained, but on an adjusted budget.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in order to prioritize the provision of vital assistance in a context of limited funding projections, UNRWA will focus its emergency interventions on mitigating food insecurity amongst the most vulnerable Palestine refugees; and on ensuring critical protection services to vulnerable refugees impacted by protection threats due to the on-going occupation. Food parcels will be delivered to 37,000 individuals from Bedouin and herder communities in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP); and emergency cash assistance will be provided to 3,620 abject poor households inside and outside camps. The Agency will continue to mitigate protection threats through monitoring, reporting and advocacy with duty bearers on alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) through bilateral and international human rights mechanisms; and through the provision of targeted assistance to identified vulnerable refugees. In response to funding shortfalls, CfW activities inside camps, community mental health and mobile health clinics that were discontinued in 2018 will not be reintroduced in 2019.
Emergency assistance provided by UNRWA constitutes the minimum support necessary to meet the critical needs of Palestine refugees. Any further reductions in emergency funding would have a severe impact on the human security of Palestine refugees, with potential destabilizing effects on the oPt. The humanitarian problems faced by 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 and relevant General Assembly resolutions.
The 2019 EA addresses the priority humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. It is guided by the following three strategic priorities:
Strategic Priority 1: Crisis-affected Palestine refugee households facing acute shocks have increased economic access to food through food aid, CfW and e-cards targeting the most vulnerable households.
Strategic Priority 2: Palestine refugees maintain their access to critical services and assistance, including education; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); and are protected from the most severe impacts of hostilities and violence through the provision of mental health and psychosocial assistance and monitoring, reporting and advocacy.
Strategic Priority 3: Effective management and coordination of the emergency response is ensured to safeguard the effectiveness, efficiency and neutrality of programme delivery.