Occupied Palestinian Territory: Humanitarian Dashboard (January – June 2017)
The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip deteriorated markedly in the first half of 2017 due to an escalation in the internal Palestinian political divide, against the backdrop of ongoing Israeli blockade. In March 2017, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) cut the salaries of some 62,000 employees in Gaza by 30-50 per cent, directly impacting affected personnel and their families and indirectly impacting the wider economy as a result of declining consumption. The level of essential medicines and medical supplies available in Gaza reduced, with partners reporting that the last regular shipment from Ramallah was received in March. As a result, the percentage of medications on the essential drug list at zero stock at the Ministry of Health Central Drug Store in Gaza increased from 24 per cent in March to 31 per cent in June.
The energy crisis worsened dramatically during the second quarter, as a result of a PA decision in May to reduce payments for electricity from the Israel Electricity Company for supplies to Gaza by around 33 per cent. By the end of June, Palestinians in Gaza were receiving only four to six hours of electricity per day, on average. The longer blackouts are having a pervasive impact on all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip, undermining basic services and generating serious public health concerns. Critical facilities have maintained minimal operations with emergency fuel provided by humanitarian agencies to run backup generators and vehicles.
Nevertheless, services at 14 public hospitals, 18 NGO hospitals and health facilities, and 70 primary healthcare facilities have reduced, with some facing partial closure. Over 300 pieces of sensitive medical equipment have been damaged by electricity shortfalls and fluctuations, reducing Palestinian access to critical medical care. The provision of water has reduced from 90 to 53 litres per capita per day, with most families receiving piped water only once every four days. The discharge of over 108 million litres of almost totally untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea every day – equivalent to more than 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools – has increased bacterial contamination in the Mediterranean Sea, according to testing done on Gaza’s beach water in May 2017. The continuing electricity shortage has raised irrigation costs to a point where agricultural livelihoods have become unsustainable for the most vulnerable farmers. Mediterranean Sea every day – equivalent to more than 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools – has increased bacterial contamination in the Mediterranean Sea, according to testing done on Gaza’s beach water in May 2017. The continuing electricity shortage has raised irrigation costs to a point where agricultural livelihoods have become unsustainable for the most vulnerable farmers.
No major changes in the situation were recorded in the West Bank during this period. The overall rate of demolitions/seizures and related displacement was significantly lower in Area C than in 2016, however, it remained at similarly high levels in East Jerusalem. The ability of humanitarian actors to respond to emerging needs in some of the affected communities in Area C has been constrained by restrictions related to the legal action taken to prevent demolitions. Students in some Palestinian Bedouin and herding communities also face the risk of demolition and shortage of school infrastructure.
After a three-year decline, settler violence increased during the first half of 2017, undermining the physical security and livelihoods of affected communities. An unprecedented number of settlement housing projects were approved or advanced, including for the establishment of a new settlement in Area C and new settlement compounds in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Some of this expansion will encroach further on Palestinian land and may lead to the displacement of Palestinian families.
As a result of the abovementioned factors, Palestinians living in herding communities across Area C, in the settlement area of Hebron city (H2), and in certain neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, have continued to face a coercive environment placing them at risk of forcible transfer.
The wave of Palestinian attacks and Israeli measures in response to them, which erupted in late 2015 continued, but at a considerably reduced level. The number of child arrests and detentions by Israeli forces rose in East Jerusalem during the second quarter of 2017. Some 182 cases were documented by UNICEF in the second quarter of 2017, as compared to 136 children arrested in the first quarter.
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