The humanitarian context of oPt is unique amongst today’s humanitarian crises and remains directly tied to the impact of occupation, now approaching its 50th year. While needs surged in Gaza since mid-2014 following a 51-day escalation of hostilities and substantial residual requirements remain one year later, the underlying challenges remain unchanged across oPt. First, is the need for protection measures for at least 1.8 million Palestinians experiencing or at risk of (by way of illustration) conflict and violence, displacement, denial of access to livelihoods, administrative detention, psycho-social distress or exposure to explosive remnants of war. Second, is the need to ensure delivery of essential services such as water and health care for the most acutely vulnerable households currently denied access. And third is the need to support vulnerable households to better cope with the prolonged nature of the humanitarian crisis and the recurrent cycle of shocks, natural and manmade. These dynamics are significantly magnified in the Gaza context, given the restrictions associated with the eight year blockade. Across the oPt, one in two Palestinians, roughly 2.3 million people, will need some form of humanitarian assistance in 2016.
While the blockade on the Gaza Strip has continued, 2015 witnessed a relaxation of restrictions by the Israeli authorities and a related increase in the volume of people and goods moving to and from Gaza. On the other hand, the humanitarian impact of the blockade has been exacerbated by the almost continues closure by Egypt of the Rafah passenger crossing since October 2014, leaving the vast majority of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza unable to move in or out. The eightyear long blockade and three major escalations of hostilities in six years have devastated public infrastructure while a chronic power deficit disrupts the supply of basic services and undermines already vulnerable living conditions. Negligible progress by the Government of National Consensus (GNC) in intra-Palestinian reconciliation has prevented 40,000 public sector employees from receiving their full salaries for over a year. While repairs to moderately damaged homes, schools and health facilities have proceeded quite quickly, the pace of reconstruction of 18,000 houses that were completely destroyed or severly damaged during last year’s hostilities has been very slow. Donor disbursements of pledges made at the October 2014 Cairo Gaza reconstruction conference were at only 35 per cent by August 2015. Poverty (39 per cent), unemployment (41.5 per cent, exceeding 60 per cent among youth) and food insecurity (47 per cent) remain high. Per capita GDP in Gaza in 2015 is 72 per cent below the level it was in 1994.
A total of 1.6 million Palestinians in the oPt are considered moderately or severely food insecure according to the latest SocioEconomic and Food Security survey (SEFSec)
Although the 2014 ceasefire has held pervasive insecurity and the continuous threat of violence remains. Accountability for the violations by all sides during the 2014 escalation of hostilities remains an urgent priority.
Although casualties from conflict in Gaza significantly declined in 2015 compared to 2014, the number of Palestinian fatalities increased sharply from October, in particular when demonstrations in the access restricted areas (ARA) evolved into violent clashes with Israeli forces. Twenty Palestinians were killed and 966 were injured by Israeli forces in 2015 to end October. Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) continue to pose a serious threat; between the end of the 2014 conflict and the end of October 2015, 15 Palestinians have died and 91 were injured in ERW-related incidents. Other IDP protection concerns include an increase in the incidence of gender-based violence (GBV), mostly affecting women, adolescent girls and children. Preliminary findings from an IDP survey of two of the five governorates indicate that 73 per cent of households perceive an increase in the incidence of GBV in Gaza. Around 225,000 children still require psychosocial support and child protection services, and over 33,000 of the most vulnerable children are in need of individual child protection case management.
No major new displacement was recorded in Gaza during the course of 2015. However, an estimated 95,000 people remain displaced as a result of the 2014 hostilities, of whom 78,000 continue to need temporary support.The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), agreed between the Israeli and Palestinian governments in the aftermath of the 2014 hostilities, has continued to alleviate some of the negative impacts of the blockade on reconstruction efforts. In May 2015 a new agreement in the context of the GRM was reached (the “residential stream”) allowing the import of materials for the reconstruction of nearly 10% of the totally destroyed homes, as of November. Reconstruction efforts have been also facilitated by Israel’s lifting of the restrictions on the import of aggregates, which were removed from the list of “dual use” items. The outstanding affected and displaced population, 98,000 families (590,000 individuals) are living in damaged houses, rental units, with host families, in caravans, or tents and makeshift shelters. Restrictions on the import of goods identified by the Israeli authorities as having a “dual use” (i.e. potentially a military as well as civilian purpose) continue to impede access to temporary shelter solutions at the required speed and scale
Currently 95,000 people (over 17,000 families) remain displaced in the Gaza Strip as a result of the 2014 conflict, three quarters of whom are also UNRWA registered refugees. Data analyzed on 8,123 households so far has indicated that displaced families are resorting to a number of negative coping mechanisms, including borrowing money (84 percent) or buying food on credit (86 percent). Almost half of families surveyed have decreased their food consumption; over two thirds indicated that they have insufficient domestic water. Over half the families surveyed also reported an increased need for psychosocial support, while 75 percent perceive an increase in GBV rates since the conflict.
Shelter is the main issue for many families, and the upcoming winter weather will increase the vulnerability of displaced families and hampers reconstruction efforts profoundly. A recent reduction in the thickness of permissible wood from 5 cm to 1 cm has had a direct and negative impact on temporary housing solutions for IDPs.
Access to essential services
The blockade and periodic hostilities have inflicted largescale destruction on Gaza’s economy, productive assets and infrastructure, while the Israeli-imposed “dual use” restrictions on the entry of equipment and spare parts have impeded basic service delivery. The continuing non-payment of salaries to over 40,000 employees of the de-facto authorities since April 2014 has also affected running and operating costs of ministries and their ability to provide basic services. A chronic energy crisis, with power outages reaching 12-16 hours a day, also impairs service delivery, students’ educational outcomes, the functioning of hospitals and medical equipment and the operation of more than 280 water and wastewater facilities.
Some 23 items required for WASH projects have also been included in the “dual use” list, impacting the delivery of services and public health. Eight years of blockade and movement restrictions on people and materials, including medical resources, has led to a serious deterioration in the availability and quality of health services, compounded by Egyptian restrictions on the Rafah crossing since July 2013.
Shelter needs are compounded by an accumulated, chronic shortage of over 75,000 housing units even before the destruction from the escalation in hostilities in 2014. This chronic shortage has resulted in overcrowding, increases in rental prices, inadequate accommodation and associated health and protection concerns. As a result, 168,000 (or 28,000 households) remain vulnerable to harsh weather conditions and protection concerns due to their inadequate housing conditions. Periodic conflicts and the destruction of educational facilities that ensued have affected all 462,770 basic, secondary and kindergarten students in Gaza, compromising their access to a safe, child-friendly environment and causing a range of psychosocial effects.
Erosion of resilience
The sweeping Israeli ban on the exit of goods from Gaza to markets in the West Bank and Israel, in place since the imposition of the blockade, has been eased. As a result, the volume of outgoing truckloads during 2015 saw a five-fold increase compared to 2014. However, despite this improvement, the volume of exports and transfers in 2015 constitutes only 10% per cent of the equivalent figure during the first five months of 2007, prior to the imposition of the blockade. This is due to a range of factors that have systematically undermined Gaza’s productive capacity, including the remaining Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods to and from Gaza and on access to agricultural land and fishing waters. These factors discourage investment and perpetuate high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency.1 In Gaza, 47 per cent of households face food insecurity, characterized by limited economic access to food because of high prices and limited income opportunities, resulting in low resilience and high vulnerability to shocks. Preliminary findings from an IDP survey in Gaza reveal worrying trends in terms of food consumption and food diversity, indicating significant levels of food insecurity. Inadequate investments in agricultural rehabilitation and in the slow reconstruction of essential productive assets destroyed during the 2014 conflict have resulted in increased dependency on short term assistance to support food consumption. Moreover in 2015, widespread outbreaks of Avian Influenza severely affected the poultry sector, further eroding agricultural-based livelihoods, increasing dependency on food imports and raising consumers’ concerns about food safety. Also of concern is the potential impact of Egypt’s recent flooding of the illegal tunnels under its border with Gaza on infrastructure and agricultural livelihoods.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.